New software follows the flow of traffic

Enables drivers to find quickest route by mapping traffic flow

News Technology Review May 29, 2007
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Boston-based Tele Atlas, known for providing digital maps and navigational content, has integrated new trafficking software into its map database that enables drivers to find the most optimal route for any stretch of road at any hour of any day of the week, based on speed rather than distance, according to a report in Technology Review.

"It's like having an experienced cab driver with you all the time who knows which roads to avoid to find the most time-saving route," Jerry Kim, director of global dynamic content at Tele Atlas, told the magazine.

Inrix, a Kirkland, Wash.-based startup, developed the software that provides real-time and predictive traffic information. Using two years of historical traffic-speed data collected from commercial fleet vehicles as well as real-time global positioning software and road sensors from the department of transportation, the software determines the average speed of roadways across the United States. These billions of data points are then run through proprietary software to create a table of historical traffic patterns based on the hour of the day and the day of the week, according to the magazine.

When drivers input their start and end positions, a color-coded display--in green, yellow, red, or black--of the road segments appears on the navigational device's screen. A wide-open road is indicated by green, whereas stop-and-go traffic is shown in black. Drivers can also view the highways of an entire city to determine which typically move the fastest, according to Technology Review.

"I can tell you that at 3 P.M. on Friday on a certain stretch of road in Detroit, traffic is typically flowing at 35 miles per hour--and we have done that for almost a million miles of road across the country," Bryan Mistele, the founder and CEO of Inrix, told Technology Review. Tele Atlas allows drivers to get a much more accurate estimated time of arrival than what is available now by integrating this kind of information into its map database.

Current map databases use the location of roadways combined with their posted speed limits to estimate arrival times. Depending on the time of day and where the driver lives, that information could be grossly inaccurate, Mistele told the magazine. The new software provides a more accurate estimation by gauging the speed of each segment of road based on the time of day and the day of the week.

The only comparable product on the market today is developed by LandSonar, a San Francisco-based company. Its software is similar, but remains limited to 450,000 miles of roadway for three days of the week, according to Technology Review.

A new version of the Tele Atlas software, upgraded to incorporate changing traffic patterns, will be released every quarter, or every time the company offers a new map database, the magazine said.

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