Thursday, September 3, 2009

Traffic mapping for more efficient cities

While looking at A look at the Waze crowdsourced traffic mapping service turned up some other services with similar purposes. Let's take a look at a few of them.

As mentioned in the prior article Google Maps has traffic conditions reported on their maps. However this is only available for major highways, and only in selected cities.

The Maryland Department of Transportation publishes a list of highways and traffic speeds, traffic incidents, live traffic cameras for several roads, and more. The data is part of their CHART system (Coordinated Highways Action Response Team).

Clearly governments have an incentive to collect traffic information for their own needs and have the access to embed sensor devices in roads. That data can be provided to the public and there are many interested in open government, and specifically opening the data collected by government agencies for the benefit of all citizens. However there doesn't appear to be a comprehensive list of the API and data provided by governments.

Current City is a project of the Senseable City Laboratory MIT and several European researchers. They are working on applications covering these questions. They're leveraging the data collected by cell phone carriers and notice they are servicing other questions than simply traffic conditions.

  • How many people are there in that area? (crowd management)
  • Where is traffic piling up? (mobility analysis and forecasting)
  • What percentage of people has left that area? (evacuation support, event management)
  • What is the current demand for public transportation? (public transport management)
  • How many people will look at that billboard?( marketing and city advertisement)
  • What is the pattern of inflow and outflow of people from the city? (urban planning)
  • What’s the hottest spot in town right now? (entertainment)

Another Senseable City Laboratory project is the Copenhagen Wheel. The project aims to transform bicycle use in Denmark’s largest city through promoting urban sustainability and building new connections between the city’s cyclists. The components of the system are an electric bicycle hub motor (converts the bicycle into an electric bicycle) along with a telemetry device reporting bicycle rider activity to a central computer system.