From The Ergoweb® Learning Center

New Approaches Aimed at Easing Traffic Jams

Several approaches on display at the 15th World Congress on Intelligent Transport Systems in New York in November stand out as potential ergonomic solutions for easing traffic congestion and improving flow. Each lays claim to a simplified approach to the challenge. 

New Global Positioning System (GPS) technology relies on community data, funneling it instantaneously to traffic monitors. In present systems, data arrives piecemeal from divergent sources. In an interview with the BBC, one of several news organizations covering the show, an executive of the manufacturing company explained that the value of community data is the sheer volume of it. "In the past we received user feedback, but it was a drip-feed of ad hoc reports,” said Rik Temmink, vice president for product management at TeleAtlas, the digital mapping subsidiary of satellite-navigation manufacturer TomTom. “Now we get literally billions of GPS measurements every week – it’s unprecedented and really exciting for us."

Information from a GPS-based system of this kind can improve traffic reporting, according to the BBC report, help route traffic, assist town planning and prepare the way for assistive driving technologies. This more streamlined approach has financial benefits as well: The data-gathering operation is practically free because it requires no infrastructure. Information from the cell phones and satellite navigation devices of road users flows directly to the monitoring setup. 

Nokia, the digital mapping company Navteq, the California Department of Transportation and the University of California-Berkeley presented a system that exhibits a similar approach. Their experiment called Mobile Century saw 100 Berkeley students driving along a stretch of road, armed with GPS-enabled Nokia handsets. After working out the details for turning the resulting GPS data into traffic information, the team expanded the trial, allowing the northern California public to download a small piece of software to any GPS-enabled phone.
The team is working also on a system to ensure that user privacy is kept safe, by only collecting GPS data when users are near "virtual trip lines"specific locations in public spacesinstead of a constant monitoring system.
A full range of vehicle-to-vehicle and vehicle-to-roadside communication technologies and services were on display at the New York show. In present systems, monitoring technology is used to sense the passage of cars. 

Mercedes-Benz showed off a system that could represent the biggest challenge the GPS approach. Its myCOMAND will give drivers Internet access everywhere. As described in the publication GearLog, The hardware used now to get services like GPS, radio, and weather and traffic info won’t be needed—everything will derive from one Web interface. Once it is available—if it delivers on its promise—the approach incorporated in myCOMAND could simplify the task of easing traffic congestion and improving flow.

Sources: 15th World Congress on Intelligent Transport Systems; BBC; GearLog

This article originally appeared in The Ergonomics Report™ on 2008-11-24.