February 1, 2007

The Coming Wave of Better Traffic Reporting in GPS Systems

With the yesterday’s announcement that Clear Channel is turning on 92 markets of expanded traffic coverage, it got me thinking that things are starting to roll in the traffic-reporting world. I've recently talked with people from Traffic.com and Inrix about where they are in the traffic reporting world and where things are going. The bottom line is that things are moving fast and it's up to the device manufacturers and the delivery infrastructure to catch up.

We used to listen to the guy in the copter for everything (I remember Joe Green in the ‘BZ copter here in Boston), and then we took a big jump with installed traffic sensors; those towers with speed monitors mounted along the highways. There are three things that are about to make for a huge jump in capability for customizing traffic reporting and making your life a lot better. They are all here and ready to hit the market:

1) Historical Average Speed Data – Several companies, including Traffic.com and Inrix have average speed data for many roads across the US. This is important because we all know that the interstate at rush hour does not move along like the interstate at 2:00AM…. But today’s GPS systems plan your routes based on posted speed limits and not necessarily traffic flow. You know, stuck in traffic on the highway and the GPS still assumes that you will drive 10 miles in 10 minutes? Yea, right! So, with a database of historical average speed data, your GPS will be able to tell you how long it will take to get somewhere not based on the posted speed limit (fantasy), but on the time of day (reality). This data can be crammed onto a portable navigation device at the factory. Expect this type of data to show up in the coming Dash Express, and other new GPS units in the near future. (Sounds like a new Nuvi: How about the Nuvi 700?)

2) Significant Coverage Increases and Flow Data for Major US Markets – With the advent of getting fleet vehicles, and potentially anonymous mobile phone tracking to send back road speed conditions, we won’t need to install expensive road sensors on less traveled roads. These GPS equipped delivery trucks (and others) send back current conditions on newer highways, and secondary roads where sensors aren’t there, but you need to be. This flow data is collected to give you better insight into traffic conditions on an ever-expanding network of roads. More coverage = better traffic awareness for you.

3) Traffic Data Bandwidth Increases – with the increase in information, we will need an increase in data bandwidth; that’s coming. Dash navigation is using high speed cellular to deliver traffic information, and recently traffic signals were sent over HD radio waves (NAVTEQ demo’d this at CES), which represent a big increase in bandwidth. Better bandwidth = more information = better traffic awareness for you. Expect HD Signal equipped GPS units soon too.

Taken all together this will offer you the ability to get in your car, tap “Go to Work” and the unit will be able to reference historical speed data, and the current traffic flow and incident reports across a huge network of roads to get you an accurate read on how long it will take.

The other scenario is that you need to get somewhere by a certain time. No more guessing, type in the time you need to get there, and the GPS will reference historical data to figure out the duration of the trip today and tell you what time to leave.

I can’t wait.

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Posted by Scott Martin at February 1, 2007 10:02 AM

Recent Comments

Please God, let Dash release the Express soon. I have been waiting for this anxiously since I heard about it. I have tried to get an answer from Dash to no avail.

Anyway, my hope is that if enough people have these devices, then maybe traffic will be reduced. I swear I am ready to drive my truck off a cliff, because the traffic here in So Cal is so bad. And these smart units seem to be at least a small answer to my prayers.

Posted by: Will at February 1, 2007 10:51 AM
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