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Mobile Phones to Monitor Traffic Congestion 89

Posted by Zonk
from the backup-on-the-i-five-headed-south dept.
shas3n writes "In an interesting and innovative way Bangalore city, India, has come up with a way to monitor road traffic congestion by monitoring the density of mobile phones. This can give users quantitative and directional information of traffic flow without significant additional infrastructure investments. The congestion data is already available online."
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Mobile Phones to Monitor Traffic Congestion

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  • Unfortunately, the way they monitor traffic congestion is to send out a bunch of people to go see what the traffic congestion is, thereby adding to the traffic congestion. :)
    • by svendsen (1029716)
      Don't they have cameras on most freeways? You'd think they got have a computer analyze the video to determine car speed, traffic, etc.
      • More likely sub-roadway pressure or magnetic sensors
      • by sphealey (2855)
        > Don't they have cameras on most freeways? You'd think
        > they got have a computer analyze the video to determine
        > car speed, traffic, etc.

        They do. At least in my city they have camera-analysis, ultrasonic, and magnetic loop traffic sensors. The last 5 years I have noticed the system has actually started to work (as compared to when they first put these in back in the 1980s), but IMHO a GPS system would be better (and/or a very good supplement) and would automatically give updates on alternate rou
      • I'd rather have the cellular data. Thousand of individual data points reporting their location vs. a device that captures/analyzes traffic data.
    • I wonder if what you just said could be a metaphor for the observer of a system changing the state?
  • by DrDevil (90608)
    They need to be careful because a number of people could live along side the road and the number of people at home will change throughout the day. As these people are not mobile, and the people change during the day, it is difficult to discern stopped traffic from people watching the television.

    I'd be interested to see if they have addressed these problems and if so, how.
    • by AndrewM1 (648443)
      Good point. Even in areas of great reception, Cell-based location techniques are generally off by a few hundred meters - easily enough for people in homes and pedestrians to make it seem like an enormous traffic jam. Assisted GPS (using a GPS to find the cell phone, rather than just a cell-based approach) would probably be able to tell if they're on the road or off, but in areas of high building A-GPS has a tendency to not work. So, it would work great in areas of less development, but downtown (where traff
    • by scolbert (1122737)
      I agree. This whole idea seems nuts. Better solutions can be found. Check oout SpeedInfo.com for example. There is something to say for cars blipping off data. My friend works for Booze and they are involved in a US government project where data from cars is sent up via WiMAX. Speed, position, and other non-obvious stuff, like are the wipers running and if so at what speed (to determine if its raining).

      I for one will be sticking with the lamo traffic my iPhone [personafile.com] gives me with Google maps. NOT!

      Sammy.

  • by hey (83763)
    Luckily there are no privacy issues in showing where individual cell phones are!
    • by timeOday (582209)

      Luckily there are no privacy issues in showing where individual cell phones are!
      Good this this doesn't do that.
  • Strategically placed cameras is probably a better idea.

    But why use a simple solution when there's a perfectly good complicated solution to try?
    • How is this more complicated than Installing Cameras, finding a way to get the signal back to the "main office" either via new cables, or wi-fi, or some other infrastructure that would need to be put into place, having someone monitor all these cameras, or having software do all the monitoring and counting to give some data? The Cell Towers are already there. The data is already there.

      They used existing data with existing infrastructure and a bit of logic to implement a solution that does not cost as much
    • Cause the infrastructure that supports cameras is more expensive than the existing (and planned to be expanded) wireless infrastructure. Just a few costs associated with cameras:

      1. Running power to the pole
      2. Running communications to the pole (can't be overcome by wireless, because bandwidth is needed for all those images)
      3. Construction costs (putting a pole in the ground costs WHAT?!?!)
      4. Union Labor (more of an issue in the States)
      5. Cost of Camera, pole, box, power supply, wiring, maintenan

      • Those blue "cameras" about the size of a shoebox on a pole with a little aerial, usually one pointing each way, are Trafficmaster cameras. They work in a fairly ingenious way. There's a camera that identifies only the middle few digits of a number plate (solving CPU horsepower and privacy concerns by simply not bothering to read a whole plate), and transmits that back to a central point along with the vehicle speed and a timestamp. The next camera to spot the plate transmits back the data and the timesta
    • But why use a simple solution when there's a perfectly good complicated solution to try?
      No reason at all. Complicated solutions are fun!
  • Uhmmm... (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Etrias (1121031) on Friday August 31, 2007 @01:18PM (#20426679)
    ...shut up and drive?

    Just a thought.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Fx.Dr (915071)
      My thoughts exactly. Isn't this some sort of self-fulfilling prophecy?

      1) Moron talks on his cell
      2) Gets into accident
      3) ???
      4) Congestion!
    • I agree with your sentiment in regards to hand-held communicators - but I believe that a headset is less distracting and in fact might slow drivers down. This has happened for me, I am in a good conversation and I find that my speed has decreased and that I am a more stable element in the system as a result.

      It is my thought that the reason cell phone usage is associated with collisions is because the driver is literally juggling the handset. It is the fact that the driver is being physically overloaded by m
      • I agree with your sentiment in regards to hand-held communicators - but I believe that a headset is less distracting and in fact might slow drivers down.

        Hands free or hand held makes little [wired.com] difference [cars.com].

        This has happened for me, I am in a good conversation and I find that my speed has decreased and that I am a more stable element in the system as a result.

        When most traffic is going 65, and you're tooling along at 50 because you're too engrossed in your phone call, you're more unpredictable.
        • Why does the fact that the conversation is on a phone make a difference?

          If it is mere conversation (not the phone) that is the safety risk, which is evidently is the case, then would this not indicate that carpools are as much a safety concern as cell phones?
          • Why does the fact that the conversation is on a phone make a difference?

            Because the focus of your conversation is outside the vehicle. Add in the generally crappy nature of a cellphone signal, and your brain is really, really concentrating on something other than actually piloting the vehicle.
            • I have seen several studies that compare talking on a cell phone to driving at .08 BAC (blood alcohol level). All of these studies have also compared various hands free devices and handsets. None of them have shown any difference between conversations with hand held cell phones and conversations with some sort of hands free cell phone. However, to the best of my knowledge, none of them have compared cell phone usage to conversation with a passenger. My suspicion is that the result of that last comparison wo
              • My suspicion is it wouldn't. The passenger knows why you stopped talking, and likewise shuts up. The person on the other end of the phone continues to shout at you "Are you still there?!?"
                • My suspicion is it wouldn't. The passenger knows why you stopped talking, and likewise shuts up. The person on the other end of the phone continues to shout at you "Are you still there?!?"/quote If you noticed a problem and shut up, the conversation hasn't interfered with your driving. The studies I have seen indicate that talking on the cell phone causes people to be less alert and miss things they might otherwise notice, why would a conversation with someone in the car (who you can be tempted to turn and make eye contact with) be any less distracting. I have known several people who would turn and make eye contact with me while they were driving, they are much safer when they are talking on a cell phone than when they are talking to a passenger.

              • by kramulous (977841)

                However, to the best of my knowledge, none of them have compared cell phone usage to conversation with a passenger


                Driver impairment yes, but i'd also add that you have an extra set of eyes in the car with you to help. Especially if that person is also somebody who drives a lot. You ever feel nervous and look around in blind spots when you are the passenger? Screaming/Fighting/Playful kids in the backseat however ....
          • It doesn't matter, according to the last study I heard (on NPR... take it for what it is worth). Supposedly the group of people who were talking to someone in the car were actually driving worse than the group talking on the phone.

            Of course setting up the phone call (dialing, putting on your headset, etc) is probably more dangerous than either.
      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by pthor1231 (885423)

        After all, I have no recollection of mere conversation being considered an undue safety risk in regards to driving.
        Neither did that driver have any recollection that a car was in his blind spot, but he found out real quick that it was. Just because you don't remember anything happening doesn't mean that someone else's quick reaction didn't save you.
      • by kramulous (977841)

        Studies have found that using a mobile phone while driving is dangerous as it slows reaction times and interferes with a driver's perception skills and increases the chance of having a crash.

        From http://www.rta.nsw.gov.au/roadsafety/mobilephones. html [nsw.gov.au] and http://www.cutr.usf.edu/its/mobile_phone.htm [usf.edu]

        But you must be in the 17-24 'invincible' age group. But then again, who am I to preach?

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by MBCook (132727)
      Doesn't matter.

      Now I agree completely.

      But you don't have to be talking, as long as your phone is on it is reporting to the tower. There is also the argument that someone else in the car could be using the phone (say a Taxi passenger). But this should work for people like me who have a cell phone and leave it on, but don't talk while driving.

    • by timeOday (582209)

      ...shut up and drive?
      Is that even relevant? You phone still associates with the nearest tower even if you're not talking. They could glean congestion data purely from that.
      • by Etrias (1121031)

        Is that even relevant? You phone still associates with the nearest tower even if you're not talking. They could glean congestion data purely from that.

        Yeah, see that's what happens when 1) people take me too seriously and 2) technical people look at the facts and get all "strokey-beard" on me and say "but it could work!"

        I just thought it was funny that more cell phones==more traffic. And in other news, the sky is blue.

        And I know it's two hours later, but I had to respond back on this. If we could

    • by afidel (530433)
      Uh, you don't have to be talking for your cellphone to communicate with the tower........
    • by The-Bus (138060)
      Yeah, this technology would be a great way to find highly concentrated groups of assholes.
    • by antdude (79039)
      That won't work if the cars aren't moving at all or fast. ;)
  • GREAT idea. wish the did the same here in nyc. here in ny local news station (1010am) asks people to call in traffic updates which are free if you have a certain carrier. even the mta (metro subway) used surveys a few years back when they first went electronic with the metrocard. dont see why they couldnt log entrance exits and entrances and times.
  • What took so long? (Score:3, Interesting)

    by sphealey (2855) on Friday August 31, 2007 @01:23PM (#20426741)
    With so many cars having GPS' factory-installed since 2000 I have wondered myself why this hasn't already been done in the US; thousands of cars uploading position reports and velocities during rushhour would provide much better information than the notoriously unreliable traffic sensors.

    Probably issues of payment for the cell phone charges and privacy.

    sPh
    • I've considered logging my trips with GPS and doing data analysis afterwards to try and find trends. I'm surprised there isn't a website out there already doing this.
    • by bhmit1 (2270)
      I'd love to see a GPS that allows more 2-way interaction. They already have bluetooth in many of them to allow traffic and weather downloads. Having users able to upload accident info, construction, speed traps, etc would be a fantastic extension. The trick will be taking an off the shelf gps product and writing the open source firmware since I doubt any major vendor would permit the flexibility that people really want.
      • by Matje (183300)
        no need to write code, the big vendors are already doing this. Mio offers a community maintained database of speed traps in Europe, I assume they (can) provide this in the US too. It is very convenient, they even know the difference between a traffic light cam, a regular speed cam and a trajectory control cam (average speed over a section of the highway).

        TomTom is working on a way to use cellphone data for traffic calculations. What they are aiming for is a system that predicts traffic conditions, so the sy
        • by defMan (175410)
          Well, i do have some insider knowledge here. The "edit map" which is called "Map Share" is already released in the GO 520 and GO 720 products. And i think it is also be included in the just available TomTom ONE v3.
    • by Bluesman (104513)
      I'm no GPS expert, but isn't GPS itself completely passive?

      When do GPS units upload anything?
      • by sphealey (2855)
        Yes, you would need to close the loop by transmitting position/velocity packets to a central server - this could be done easily with a small data channel on a cellphone system.

        I think the OnStar satellite system has too much latency, but that might be another option.

        sPh
        • by caluml (551744)
          Like I've been doing for a while now [calum.org].
          I'm not going to go anywhere tonight, so if you want to see it in action (it's quite cool :) ) put your email in the notify box, and hit "Let me know!" to get a one-off email when I start moving.
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by arivanov (12034)
      1. AFAIK someone in Seattle was looking into this more than 2 years ago. So there is nothing particularly innovative about it.

      2. You do not need GPS. In fact you do not want GPS, because this makes the data individually identifiable and you have to prove that you are not doing something nefarious with it. Paging stats and handover stats from cells located near trunk routes will be a perfectly good replacement for this. All you need is to play correlation analysis vs actual traffic stats for a couple of days
  • by unity100 (970058) on Friday August 31, 2007 @01:30PM (#20426825) Homepage Journal
    And for the people who are arguing the bicycles, pedestrians etc would mess with the actual traffic congestion, remember that in bangalore those constitute a great deal of the traffic jam too.
  • It happens with regularity. If satnav systems simply recorded their average speed and learned how fast they were going they could make more intelligent routing decisions.

     
  • For the five of us on /. from Bangalore, we are all set! How about something for S. California, which has some of the worst traffic in the world?
  • Canadian Rogers cable tv/ISP/mobile phone provider is working on the same solution as I understand.
  • As opposed to what? (Score:3, Informative)

    by spaceyhackerlady (462530) on Friday August 31, 2007 @02:11PM (#20427291)

    Isn't the traffic always congested in Bangalore?

  • by Andrewkov (140579)
    How come the map doesn't show all the American call center's and outsourcing firms? This is Bangalore, after all!
  • Some time ago, it was reported that Bangalore could lose jobs because the software shops were fed up with the congestion there. Infosys opened 1000s of new jobs in other cities (http://bangalorebuzz.blogspot.com/2006/01/infy-to -expand-outside-bangalore.html). Maybe Bangalore decided they'd better pay some attention to the problem.
  • How is this different from 1 [slashdot.org], 2 [slashdot.org], 3 [slashdot.org], 4, 5, etc?

    http://yro.slashdot.org/comments.pl?sid=193732&cid =15887193 [slashdot.org]
  • by evilviper (135110) on Friday August 31, 2007 @02:47PM (#20427653) Journal
    A bit off-topic, but have you heard they're going to be tracking cell-phone signals to monitor traffic patterns? It's amazing! Why doesn't Slashdot ever accept a story on the subject?

    You can read more here:

    http://slashdot.org/article.pl?sid=05/11/19/143247 [slashdot.org]

    http://slashdot.org/article.pl?sid=05/11/19/074524 8 [slashdot.org]

    http://slashdot.org/article.pl?sid=05/11/01/159241 [slashdot.org]

    http://slashdot.org/article.pl?sid=05/10/16/076217 [slashdot.org]

    http://slashdot.org/article.pl?sid=02/12/30/124324 7 [slashdot.org]

    http://slashdot.org/article.pl?sid=02/06/13/042822 9 [slashdot.org]

    http://slashdot.org/article.pl?sid=06/08/10/233725 9 [slashdot.org]

    There, that's better. Hopefully, one day they'll come to their senses, and post a story or two on the subject.
  • Sounds like a pretty good idea to me. The phone company _already has_ the data, so if they were to release non identifying information (location, direction, speed) for each unit there are no huge privacy concerns - relative to the benefits. As someone else mentioned bikes could be a problem - not to mention pedestrians and old guys sitting on benches. The sheer number of data points could be a useful pointer to whether it's a traffic jam or a bunch of people walking... Some smarts could likely filter the d
  • Though it hasn't been implemented yet, this was already planned in the UK with TomTom and Vodafone teaming up. The Register has the article: http://www.reghardware.co.uk/2006/10/27/tomtom_cel lular_traffic_tech/ [reghardware.co.uk]

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