July 5, 2007

What are Historical Average Speeds?

As we continue to develop more and more sophisticated traffic reporting and prediction capabilities I thought I would just cover a basic element of the changing face of traffic coverage in the US and how you will be able to integrate it into the new GPS units that are coming later this year. These new units should have historical average speeds for most major US roadways. This will allow them to realize that offering a route THROUGH a major city at rush hour is probably not as good as skirting around it on a major highway well outside that city. The GPS will give more accurate estimations of the trip times to get from here to there when taking into account traffic’s effect on the speed you can travel.

How to Get Historical Average Speeds?

One company I have written a lot about is Inrix, and they happen to supply the current TMC channel with traffic data through the Clear Channel radio network. To get this understanding of average speed limits at different times of the day, they have collected data from fleet vehicles that are equipped with two-way communication between their on board GPS and a main server. By looking at speeds of trucks and taxis at different times of the day they are able to understand what those average speeds are on major roadways at different times of the day. They call their network of vehicles the “Smart Dust Network”, and they use years of data to create this model. Their particular model covers about a million miles of roadway with varying levels of certainty; the bigger the road, the more certain things are. Inrix and TeleAtlas recently announced that they are bundling the map and average speed data together to facilitate its use in GPS units more easily. This data will fit on a personal navigation device pretty easily once it is optimized; we aren’t talking huge datasets here to get a lot of the benefit.

Not to be left out, NAVTEQ bought Traffic.com (in my mind because they saw these innovations coming), and announced earlier this year that they would bundle map and traffic speed data under the name "NAVTEQ Traffic Patterns".

What comes next? Predicted traffic. Once you understand what happens historically on one highway, you will then know that if you leave and travel at 2PM, that 10-mile trip will take 12 minutes. But if you leave at 5:30PM, you might need 30 minutes to crawl down the highway at a bumper-to-bumper pace. Pretty cool.

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Posted by Scott Martin at July 5, 2007 8:47 AM

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