I spend more than 2 hours a day commuting to work. Accurate traffic conditions and avoiding the worst delays and accidents are key. I’m using 511.org and Yahoo! and Google Maps to get up to date information on traffic. Note: Why don’t the maps services offer an easy way to look at your commute every day?
I’m convinced that we can improve on the quality of the traffic reports. And I found the ideal data source: The mobile phone providers!
More sensors = better data
Think of a mobile phone as a sensor. Thousands of cars are using a given section of the freeway at the same time. The mobile phones in the cars can be tracked by the carriers. Plotting the movements on a map will result in the most accurate and up-to-date traffic conditions. We could have the average speed for any given quarter mile in real time!
Red/yellow/green – what’s the trend though?
Most traffic services currently use green/yellow/red to indicate the speed of the traffic. This is insufficient. Will yellow turn into red or green? The time dimension is lacking here. A simple arrow indicating the trend for the last 10 minutes would help. E.g. It’s yellow right now and has been getting slower in the last 10 minutes.
Speed graphs including historical information
This could be further enhanced by adding a graph for the speed where the x-axis represents the last 30-60 minutes or so. This could even be a 3D graph adding the data for the last 7 days.
The privacy of the mobile users has to be protected obviously. No tracking of individuals is allowed. Only the aggregate information is to be used.