Nokia and UC Berkeley researchers tested technology that could soon transform the way drivers navigate through congested highways and obtain information about road conditions.
One hundred cars equipped with the GPS-enabled Nokia N95, and driven by students from the University of California, traveled a 10-mile stretch of highway near San Francisco to show how real-time traffic information can be collected from the GPS feed, while preserving the privacy of the devices’ owners.
The experiment was carried out to test the traffic data collection and aggregation system, while studying the trade-offs between data accuracy, personal privacy, and data collection costs. The software aggregating the GPS feeds immediately disassociates that data from an individual device and combines it with the general stream of traffic data. To protect privacy, all data is anonymous and aggregated, and protected by banking-grade encryption
During the experiment, special software on the mobile devices periodically sent anonymous speed and location readings from the integrated GPS to servers. The feeds were then combined to create a real-time picture of traffic speeds and projected travel times.
“Mobile device users control the service. If an individual does not want their device to transmit position data they turn off the feed from their GPS,” stated Quinn Jacobson, Research Leader at Nokia Research Center, Palo Alto.
“Nokia is very excited at the potential for this system to revolutionize travel planning, carrying on from the Nokia Maps navigation service available today on certain Nokia devices,” continued Jacobson. “Integration of traffic information with functions such as calendar and online timetables may one day mean the mobile device can act as personal travel planner.”
The researchers believe that fewer than 5% of drivers need to contribute location data for the system to be effective on any particular highway.
In the USA alone congestion causes 4.2 billion hours extra travel every year and the purchase of extra 2.9 billion gallons of fuel for a congestion cost of USD 78 billion, according to 2007 Urban Mobility Report, September 2007, Texas Transportation Institute, David Schrank & Tim Lomax.
With the number of vehicles on the road increasing rapidly around the world a cost-effective method of travel planning could help drivers make smarter decisions about which routes to take, the researchers say.
The project brings together research teams from the Nokia Research Center (NRC) in Palo Alto and from UC Berkeley, interacting through UC Berkeley’s California Center for Innovative Transportation (CCIT). These teams are developing the algorithms, software and architecture of this GPS-based traffic monitoring system.