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Aussie Government Competition To Predict Commute Times

samzenpus posted more than 3 years ago | from the the-road-less-traveled dept.

Math 79

databuff writes "Last week, Sydney's Minister of Roads, David Borger, launched a $10,000 competition to develop an algorithm that predicts commute times on a major Sydney freeway. The winning algorithm will be used to power predictions on the Sydney live traffic website. The hope is that the predictions will help commuters make informed decisions about when to travel and on what routes, lowering the intensity of peak hour traffic. In its first week, the competition attracted entries from more than 50 teams and 19 countries."

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So if everyone knows the time to avoid (2)

Aerorae (1941752) | more than 3 years ago | (#34414592)

won't everyone just follow the same algorithm and end up with traffic peaking at some other time?

Re:So if everyone knows the time to avoid (1)

Mitchell314 (1576581) | more than 3 years ago | (#34414620)

Well, it depends on the algorithm . . .

double getTrafficLoad(Location location){
return (new Random()).nextDouble();
}

Re:So if everyone knows the time to avoid (1)

serps (517783) | more than 3 years ago | (#34414626)

Er, no.
  1. Not everyone has access to the web at work to find out. Often, the first you hear about traffic congestion is via the radio in your car.
  2. Not everyone has flexible work hours
  3. Not everyone has many choices of route home
  4. People are lazy.

Re:So if everyone knows the time to avoid (2)

twisteddk (201366) | more than 3 years ago | (#34414812)

I get the part about lazy.
Apparently the minister of transportation and roads is too. Here in Denmark, we've had nice functionaing algorithms, based on the length of the queue, and the speed at which it moves. And with some nice LED signs that says "traveltime x minutes from here to whereever", and we've had those for.... Well, at least 10-15 years now. A tried and proven system, what's the point of asking for a new algorithm ? Does he want something that makes a GUESS rather than bases itself upon the facts ?

Re:So if everyone knows the time to avoid (1)

Merls the Sneaky (1031058) | more than 3 years ago | (#34414830)

No he wants something that works with the higgledy piggledy layout of NSW roads. Maybe in Denmark your roads make more sense?

Re:So if everyone knows the time to avoid (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34415360)

A very impressive-sounding system... and you're lucky to have had it for so long! I would, however, like to take a moment object to a leap of logic you've made, in which you went from "we have one of those" to "it's therefore not worthwhile trying to do better". I swear, in 1950, there was someone somewhere who said "Combustion engine? We've got those, tried and proven. Why would anyone fund further research?"

Re:So if everyone knows the time to avoid (1)

kramulous (977841) | more than 3 years ago | (#34423172)

I think the government here is a little short on cash. The algorithm you use (and is probably wanted here) is possibly too expensive given the budget of the program.

My guess is that they're trying to get it on the cheap ... $10K is cheap for a fully functioning algorithm and the full rights to use it.

Congrats on having a fully functional government that is forward thinking.

Re:So if everyone knows the time to avoid (1)

commodore64_love (1445365) | more than 3 years ago | (#34415908)

I know I'll probably get shot-down but there's a very, very simple solution:

Just as the internet companies have had to lay fatter "pipes" as consumer speeds have grown from 14k to 56k to 10,000k so too do the highway companies have to lay fatter roads to handle the growing population. Internet & roads need to be designed for the PEAK demand to handle all the "packets" full of data or people. But right now they are nowhere near that level - hence traffic jams and congestion.

Re:So if everyone knows the time to avoid (1)

RMH101 (636144) | more than 3 years ago | (#34416284)

except if you build more roads...you get more congestion. Honestly. Demand expands at a faster rate. What's needed is a way of optimising what we *have* and encouraging car sharing/alternative forms of transport and ways of encouragign the above such as congestion charging, time-based road tolls etc.

Re:So if everyone knows the time to avoid (0)

commodore64_love (1445365) | more than 3 years ago | (#34419344)

>>>except if you build more roads...you get more congestion.

Bullshit. Drive to the US midwest and you'll see a LOT of roads that were widened from 2 to 4 lanes wide as part of the Eisenhower Interstate upgrade..... and yet these roads are mostly empty stretches with little traffic. Therefore your conclusion that wider roads == more cars/congestion has been proven false.

Re:So if everyone knows the time to avoid (1)

RMH101 (636144) | more than 3 years ago | (#34419748)

Google "induced traffic". There's a lot of transport research that goes on on academia, and its been shown that building more roads increases traffic exponentially. Obviously this applies to areas with high current concentrations of cars. If someone wants to build a 4 lane freeway in the middle of Hicksville for a kickback this may not apply, obviously...
E.g.
http://www.walkablestreets.com/wide.htm [walkablestreets.com]

Re:So if everyone knows the time to avoid (1)

xaxa (988988) | more than 3 years ago | (#34423100)

In the UK, "reducing journey times" (or "reducing congestion", same thing) can't be used to justify building a new road. This is because the reduced journey time lasts a few months, by which time X more cars are using the road since people adjust their lives to use the available space.

People are willing to spend N minutes travelling to work every day. If a journey would take longer they'll do something else (move house, move job, ask for different hours, etc).

The same happens with public transport. About a year ago a previously low-frequency low-capacity railway was improved (new, longer trains and much more frequent service). Within a couple of months it was very busy -- everyone who it benefited had switched. (example usage figures [wikipedia.org] on the right)
Reducing journey times is good justification to build a railway here, as the social cost is much, much less than for a road.

(An example good justification for building a road is to displace traffic away from the centre of a settlement, or to reduce pollution by removing a bottleneck in a typical journey.)

Inter-city highways aren't really relevant, as far fewer people use them to commute.

Re:So if everyone knows the time to avoid (1)

kramulous (977841) | more than 3 years ago | (#34423288)

I was called in on a project to help reduce the problem of congestion in an Aussie city. We were immediately cut off at the knees ... apparently, congestion is seen, and used, as an indicator to determine the wealth of a nation (just as Internet penetration/uptake is). If you are a wealthy nation, you have congestion.

The policy makers deliberately prevent you from coming up with an all encompassing solution.

Re:So if everyone knows the time to avoid (1)

RMH101 (636144) | more than 3 years ago | (#34423962)

Ooooh, this is interesting. Thanks for sharing...

Re:So if everyone knows the time to avoid (1)

Cimexus (1355033) | more than 3 years ago | (#34416710)

Most NSW residents would agree with you in principle. However it's not very practical in many areas of Sydney - there's simply no space to put extra lanes on many roads without the Government reclaiming massive (and I mean massive) numbers of homes and businesses. Which would cost a stupendous amount of money and cause an absolute uproar.

In fact for the last 10 years, most of Sydney's major road expansions have had to be underground for this very reason. See, for example, the M5 Tunnel or Lane Cove Tunnel (wiki either of these if interested). As you can imagine, drilling 6+ lane roads through solid rock for miles upon miles costs ... quite a bit. But that's the only real option.

Re:So if everyone knows the time to avoid (1)

commodore64_love (1445365) | more than 3 years ago | (#34419976)

I was talking about expanding roads OUTSIDE of the city, so that people (and freight trucks) can take these alternate routes (i.e. drive around the city) instead of being forced to go through it.

There should be plenty of room in the surrounding suburb or rural areas to build new high-speed, limited-access roads.

Re:So if everyone knows the time to avoid (1)

Cimexus (1355033) | more than 3 years ago | (#34427556)

Thing is I don't think there's much in the way of 'through traffic' that's causing these problems. Australia isn't like Europe or the US where there's towns and cities all over the place (meaning a lot of traffic in any location is simply driving through there to get to another place). 99% of the traffic in Sydney would be there because it is, in fact, trying to get to places within the city of Sydney.

As it happens if you do genuinely intend to simply pass through Sydney (say, you're driving from Canberra to Brisbane) you ~can~ largely bypass Sydney via the M6. This still goes 'through' the outskirts of Sydney but is a limited access road and usually flows OK.

Building more such roads in the surrounding suburban/rural areas won't really fix anything because the problem is in the core of the city and is not caused by traffic merely passing through. Furthermore, Sydney's geography would make building such roads a challenge. It's hemmed in on all sides by either National Park, ocean, or very very steep terrain at the base of the Blue Mountains that would make road building an epic engineering feat.

Re:So if everyone knows the time to avoid (1)

Cimexus (1355033) | more than 3 years ago | (#34427574)

Just to clarify, I'm not shooting you down and I agree 100% with your assertion that things such as roads should be overengineered. But Sydney's geography and demographics pose some issues that aren't simple to resolve, that's all. It can be done but it would be 10x as expensive as in a place that had substantial amounts of through traffic/was flat and had space available on the outskirts/didn't have everyone trying to get in nad out of a few small areas every day.

Re:So if everyone knows the time to avoid (1)

old_kennyp (949607) | more than 3 years ago | (#34414970)

As I travel in Sydney traffic every day after 7 am till 9:30. just about every road into an out of the city does a great approximation of a Carpark so real easy to work out ravel times Afternoon peak starts at 4:30 and stays till about 6:30 pm I assume the difference is that the evening traffic Spreads out into secondary roads, where the moring in just funnelled all into the city

Re:So if everyone knows the time to avoid (1)

Yvanhoe (564877) | more than 3 years ago | (#34415352)

That is why making such algorithm is not only doing prediction but also deciding on when you want traffic jams to occur...

Re:So if everyone knows the time to avoid (1)

daem0n1x (748565) | more than 3 years ago | (#34416682)

Easy. I have a motorcycle. My commute time is extremely predictable.

Re:So if everyone knows the time to avoid (1)

bandmassa (951387) | more than 3 years ago | (#34438182)

Exactly, but that won't stop a planet full of petrol addicted monkeys from driving headlong to civilisation's peak oil fuelled destruction.

The drivers are addicted to petrol. Traffic engineers are addicted to petrol. Governments are addicted to petrol votes and petrol excise. Of course, while the frog boils slowly, no effort will be made to escape from the water pot.

Thats easy (2)

MichaelSmith (789609) | more than 3 years ago | (#34414630)

I used to do this for VicRoads in Melbourne. At peak times a queue builds up at the exit end of the freeway. Normally the city end during the morning peak. Travel time depends entirely on the length of the queue. Maybe RTA NSW should be paying VicRoads for the software I wrote in the 1990s. It can be a discount on the money VicRoads pays for SCATS.

Re:Thats easy (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34414660)

You should enter!

Re:Thats easy (1)

PhunkySchtuff (208108) | more than 3 years ago | (#34414680)

Yes but if the traffic in Sydney is anything like the traffic on the Eastern Freeway (which I assume you're talking about) then it no longer behaves the way that your model assumes.

During the morning peak (which now begins well before 7am), now that the EastLink tollway has been completed, there is a fair amount of traffic already on the Eastern Freeway before you even reach Springvale Road. As a result, a commute that used to pretty much exactly follow your predictions now is bumper-to-bumper from Springvale Road to around Bulleen Road and then it's flowing beautifully until you cross the Yarra just after the Chandler Highway whereupon it's the traditional queue.

Predicting the travel times when you need to take into account the congestion at the beginning or middle of a journey then becomes quite more difficult.

Re:Thats easy (1)

MichaelSmith (789609) | more than 3 years ago | (#34414732)

Most of my data from back then was for the south eastern arterial, which was where we had the high resolution speed and volume data. We weren't working with the Eastern much in those days. I take your point that the tollway has changed the game. It just means you have queuing at different points of the freeway. Generally where there isn't a queue traffic will flow at the limit. Where there is a queue: 30 to 40 km/h. Our real time data used to look like this:

  • 1500 90 10
  • 1000 95 12
  • 500 105 9
  • 0 101 8

Thats Distance, Speed, Volume. Sensors every 500 metres. One day when the tulla was closed outbound I saw this:

  • 10000 0 0
  • 9500 160 1
  • 9000 0 0
  • 8500 0 0
  • 8000 0 0
  • 7500 80 15
  • 7000 60 12

Clearly somebody with a Porsche was late for his plane.

My opinion (not that it matters) is that the inner lanes of the Eastern should be bicycle lanes both ways. They can carry many more people that way. Otherwise demographic changes will just fill it up again.

Re:Thats easy (3, Funny)

TapeCutter (624760) | more than 3 years ago | (#34415264)

Here's a simple algorithim to find the the end of the evening peak hour in Sydney. Write a bot that looks for the first slashdot story of the day tagged with 'Australia'.

Re:Thats easy (3, Funny)

MichaelSmith (789609) | more than 3 years ago | (#34415306)

You know the slashdot web server logs could estimate travel times fairly well by looking at IP addresses for accounts. User stops browsing at work and starts browsing 45 (or in Sydney 90) minutes later from home.

Tornoodle for iPhone and Android (1)

symbolset (646467) | more than 3 years ago | (#34414636)

Every life has a purpose. The purpose of yours may be to provide a cautionary tale for those who come after.

The obvious correct answer to this question is an app that leverages sharing the GPS info of participants in order to deliver to the same participants reliable real-time info about traffic conditions. The fact that you're flying down this particular freeway at 100KPH right now is valuable information to people who also know of other routes to where they want to be where people are creeping along or not moving at all. Since this is useful information that can then be sold, it's possible that paying people to participate in the scheme some fraction of the gross - in addition to providing them better traffic guidance - would be economically feasible. Then most people would then get some slightly delayed, ad-sponsored automatic guidance by radio or something. Also, selling the information to traffic guidance for people who didn't want to share their GPS would also be good.

Naturally the Tornoodle Network that provides this service globally would be the bee's knees. I think I would call it "tornoodle.com." That name evokes the image of a bowl of noodles, representing potential routes, and is similar to "tornado" which is both chaotic and orderly, but unpredictable and very active. It's getting harder to find domain names these days. If you want that one, I figure you've got about ten minutes. But it was available at the time of this posting.

Re:Tornoodle for iPhone and Android (1)

jrumney (197329) | more than 3 years ago | (#34416224)

You mean something like this [waze.com] ?

Re:Tornoodle for iPhone and Android (1)

RMH101 (636144) | more than 3 years ago | (#34416318)

too complex. Just use a (GSM) cell phone's unique IMEI number and take the data from local cell towers to triangulate the approximate position and speed of all cell phone users on that network. Vodafone do this in the UK and it's pretty effecient.

Re:Tornoodle for iPhone and Android (1)

kbielefe (606566) | more than 3 years ago | (#34416860)

You're both missing the point here. Knowing the current commute time is fairly easy. The tricky part is using the measurements now to predict the commute times an hour from now. My commute ranges from 20 up to 50 minutes or so. If I can look on a website and see in a half hour my commute will be a half hour shorter, I'll just wait. If it's still going to be long, I'd rather slog it out now and get it over with.

Re:Tornoodle for iPhone and Android (1)

jrumney (197329) | more than 3 years ago | (#34426090)

Data collection is an essential step on the way to accurate forecasting. Having real-time data also lets the model adapt - if historical data suggests that a traffic jam of this severity in this location at this time takes 3 hours to clear, then knowing that the traffic jam has formed is just as important as the historical traffic pattern information for giving you that accurate forecast.

Fail (2)

hairyfish (1653411) | more than 3 years ago | (#34414652)

I predict the traffic will be really busy between 7am and 9am, and then again from 4pm to 6pm. Where do I pick up my prize?

Random number generators needed (2)

syousef (465911) | more than 3 years ago | (#34415478)

I predict the traffic will be really busy between 7am and 9am, and then again from 4pm to 6pm.
Where do I pick up my prize?

When you can predict how Sydney's failing infrastructure affects the commute. I was late to work the other day (on late shift) because a water main burst on Paramatta Road and they blocked the road citybound for a couple of hours while they sorted out the mess. Sydney's roads and transport (and other infrastructure obviously) are so poorly planned and maintained that any algorithm that was remotely successful would need several good random number generators.

the prediction will effect the prediction (1)

gl4ss (559668) | more than 3 years ago | (#34414662)

the prediction will effect the prediction. they already know the peak hour, just encourage people to use other times for their commuting. like sleeping late!

Re:the prediction will effect the prediction (1)

houghi (78078) | more than 3 years ago | (#34414706)

In Germany I have seen that people have much more flexible hours and to avoid being in traffic would start earlier. The result is that traffic starts earlier.

Re:the prediction will effect the prediction (1)

tehcyder (746570) | more than 3 years ago | (#34418900)

In Germany I have seen that people have much more flexible hours and to avoid being in traffic would start earlier. The result is that traffic starts earlier.

Exactly, and so do traffic jams.

As a rule, having modestly flexible hours (which is all that ever happens) you just add an hour or so to both the morning and evening rush hours.

There aren't many jobs where your flexi-time allows you to work from three in the afternoon to eleven at night (or three in the morning to eleven in the morning) if your hours are normally 9-5

What's the big deal? (1, Insightful)

DNS-and-BIND (461968) | more than 3 years ago | (#34414668)

Who cares? I've seen lots of traffic sites. Even a GPS with an optional attachment for live traffic reports. You know what they always say? Traffic is pretty much where you expect it to be. Everyone knows where the traffic spots are, and sure enough that's where the traffic always is.

You'd think the usual suspects would be totally against this sort of science. The attitude is "we should annoy the living shit out of drivers at every opportunity, this will certainly make them take the bus instead. Plus, it makes us feel good. We are childless and live in the inner city anyway, and why can't everyone be like us and ride bikes?"

Re:What's the big deal? (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34414778)

You must be a dangerous reactionary. Prepare for re-education or liquidation.

Re:What's the big deal? (1)

TapeCutter (624760) | more than 3 years ago | (#34415316)

During peak hours the train is the fastest and cheapest way to get from the burbs to the city in Melbourne.

Re:What's the big deal? (1)

AmiMoJo (196126) | more than 3 years ago | (#34415404)

So rather than just predicting traffic they really need to find an algo to reduce it. In this day and age we should have networked traffic lights with computer control to constantly monitor and adapt to the situation in order to optimise traffic flow. Instead we just have dumb traffic lights that run on timers.

Unintended Heisenberg results (2)

PolygamousRanchKid (1290638) | more than 3 years ago | (#34414700)

A while back, some folks in France recommended that vacationers should drive after midnight to avoid the August vacation traffic crunch. The result? Tons of folks drove at 03:00 on toll roads . . . however, only one toll booth was open, as usual, for nights. So there were major traffic jams for hours.

So I ask you, Professor John Nash, what should I do out of a Game Theory analysis? If everyone is told, to drive at a certain time, is it better for me, if drive at that time? Prisoners' Dilemma, on the roads.

The economist John Maynard Keynes was once asked, if he thought that the stock market would go up or down. He answered: "It's not important what I think. I invest on what I think, what the most people think."

Re:Unintended Heisenberg results (1)

houghi (78078) | more than 3 years ago | (#34414728)

And what with all people using GPS with traffic avoidance build in it. The basic thing that I see has happened is that the secondary roads are congested now as well. Overall traveling time has increased.

Then there are people who work at home and do the school run for their kids, because their kids are lazy and don't want to sit in a bus. They do this at the busiest time and have to do the trip twice, adding to the traffic.

Re:Unintended Heisenberg results (2)

Matt_R (23461) | more than 3 years ago | (#34414802)

And what with all people using GPS with traffic avoidance build in it.

Does that actually work? I have a GPS with traffic, and live in Sydney. I'm yet to see the traffic avoidance actually work. It tells me there's traffic up ahead, when there isn't. It tells me there's no traffic when there's a crash up ahead.

So yeah, it gets it backwards. The name of the traffic info provider is SUNA Traffic [sunatraffic.com.au] . Guess what SUNA backwards is...

Re:Unintended Heisenberg results (1)

drsmithy (35869) | more than 3 years ago | (#34416878)

Then there are people who work at home and do the school run for their kids, because their kids are lazy and don't want to sit in a bus.

It's not that the kids are lazy, it's because Today Tonight and various similar trash have convinced them that if their precious snowflake is out of their sight for more than a few seconds between authorised locations, they'll be kidnapped, raped and murdered.

Re:Unintended Heisenberg results (1)

tlhIngan (30335) | more than 3 years ago | (#34418360)

Then there are people who work at home and do the school run for their kids, because their kids are lazy and don't want to sit in a bus. They do this at the busiest time and have to do the trip twice, adding to the traffic.

It gets better.

A school sits at an intersection (with traffic lights and pedestrian-activated crosswalks).

People constantly circle the carpark and make U-turns on the adjoining road because the pickup/dropoff area is full of people waiting. Meanwhile, across the street, there's plenty of parking areas to wait. You can even park, cross the street, and wait at the school entrance. Or have your kid get some life skills on how to cross at a traffic light with a pedestrian switch.

I've also seen (different school, near me) pull out, make a right into the next intersection. The strange thing is, that ends up being a row of houses behind the school, where there's a nice path behind the school and between two houses (paved and everything, it's an official walking path) so people can walk. It was probably 10 times farther by car than by foot.

Maybe that's why we're so fat, if we refuse to walk the few extra steps and instead want to endlessly circle around parking lots guzzling gas.

Re:Unintended Heisenberg results (1)

tehcyder (746570) | more than 3 years ago | (#34418956)

Then there are people who work at home and do the school run for their kids, because their kids are lazy and don't want to sit in a bus.

As opposed to all the people driving to work who are lazy and don't want to sit in a bus?

Re:Unintended Heisenberg results (1)

noidentity (188756) | more than 3 years ago | (#34416150)

So I ask you, Professor John Nash, what should I do out of a Game Theory analysis? If everyone is told, to drive at a certain time, is it better for me, if drive at that time? Prisoners' Dilemma, on the roads.

Clearly, a random time from 00:00 through 23:59. Then traffic will be spread evenly.

Roadway modifications (1)

RealGrouchy (943109) | more than 3 years ago | (#34414708)

How much does it cost to rent a bulldozer? "Never" could be an accurate answer, yes?

- RG>

buy an iPhone (1)

JustCallMeRich (1185429) | more than 3 years ago | (#34414722)

I've been doing that for years already on my iPhone.

Maps - Options - Show Traffic

PM me for my address to send the $10K

Wrong government mate (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34414738)

It's the New South Wales Government running the competition, not the Australian (Federal) government. NSW is a state of Australia.

Wages (1)

poor_boi (548340) | more than 3 years ago | (#34414766)

No offense, but if you want a good traffic prediction algorithm, please offer more than my shitty quarterly salary.

10 things to do before I die (1)

ghrom (883027) | more than 3 years ago | (#34414786)

... 7. See the fuckers responsible for the M25 computer system shot in their heads.

Re:10 things to do before I die (2)

ambrosen (176977) | more than 3 years ago | (#34415624)

Yes, because obviously that's responsible for holdups, rather than the fact that there's an awful lot of people trying to travel through an awfully small amount of space.

Re:10 things to do before I die (1)

ghrom (883027) | more than 3 years ago | (#34428298)

If you have seen a 40mph speed limit at 3am when the road was virtually empty and imagined what's gonna happen there 4h later, you would be less sarcastic. If you have seen a 40mph speed limit and a warning about an accident, and after passing the place seen no sign of any accident whatsoever, you'd be less sarcastic. If you have seen the official statistics claiming 1.5% increase of throughput within the peak period and no mention whatsoever about the off peak period, you'd be less sarcastic. If you actually had any experience whatsoever with M25, and the absolute failure which is the system causing the jams there, you'd be less sarcastic.

My prediction? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34414820)

I predict David Borger will be out of a job sometime fairly early in the new year.

Go Social (1)

duggi (1114563) | more than 3 years ago | (#34414854)

I always wondered why automated twitter like systems are not used to solve this kind of problem.
Here is what I would like: Have a device which measures the traffic at one point installed all across the highways (Simple IR device looking at the number of passing vehicles per second should do). These devices act as social beings, sharing their data to a server to give out to everyone. They should come cheap, especially while buying in bulk (Make them solar powered, if you want to). Let them transmit the data to the nearest cell phone tower or to a server on the internet. The connectivity should be cheap, it is sending bytes of information. Have the GPS in your car (or your $20 cellphone) receive the 'feed'(or SMS) from the server based on the input route.
I dont think you need an algorithm to predict the travel time, you can just calculate it (Can be done server side too).
The costs in implementing this should be lesser.

Holidays.. (1)

Random Data (538955) | more than 3 years ago | (#34414862)

If ((Easter || Christmas) && road==F3)
{
delay = 6 hours;
}
endif
(You know the traffic's shit when you can play cricket on the 3 lane each way freeway.)

Re:Holidays.. (1)

MrKaos (858439) | more than 3 years ago | (#34425878)

If ((Easter || Christmas) && road==F3)

Ahhh I see, another suffering commuter from the Central Coast, I've refined your code.

if ((Easter || Christmas) || (random(truckCrash > 1)) && road==F3) {
delay = 6 hours;

if (fireSeason && random(bushfire.anytime) {
delay+=8 hours
}

if (gawkingTouristNotPayingAttentionWhilstTowingACaravan > 1) {
delay+=(gawkingTouristNotPayingAttentionWhilstTowingACaravan * 2hours)
}

if (Friday.northbound.afternoon || Saturday.northbound.morning || Sunday.southbound.afternoon ) {
delay+=3hours
}

if (police.booking || personChangingTyreOnSideOfF3 || debrisOnFreeway) {
delay+=.5hours
}

while (raining) {
accidentPotential++
if (random(accident+accidentPotential)) {
delay+=2hours
}
}

}
endif

Re:Holidays.. (1)

tehcyder (746570) | more than 3 years ago | (#34428854)

(You know the traffic's shit when you can play cricket on the 3 lane each way freeway.)

How come the trafic isn't moving if there's space for a cricket pitch?

Self defying (4, Interesting)

Ignatius (6850) | more than 3 years ago | (#34415066)

Predicting commute times and keeping the results secrets vs. predicting commute time and putting them in real time on a public website are two completely different problems. The former ist simply about estimating an output parameter from a set of input parameters so it's basically about approximating a function. The latter contains a nasty feedback loop as the output paramter is in itself an input parameter as it influences the behaviour of the system, so you're basically looking for a fixed point where the publication of the forecast exactly repells as many drivers at it attracts - only these values allow for a stable prognosis. In economics this effect is known as Goodhart's law [wikipedia.org] .

This means that the competition is about a completly different (and much simpler) problem to that which they are eventually trying to solve.

ignatius

Re:Self defying (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34416124)

The old difference between FIR and IIR filters :-)

Already done. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34415124)

They should really just call Microsoft up and get a copy of the pudget sound version of the software for that.

Vector map data? (1)

commlinx (1068272) | more than 3 years ago | (#34415174)

Maybe if the government wants traffic analysis performed for free (well, a small possible prize) they should be a little more permissive with street level GIS data. For those in the US the equivalent of the United States TIGER/Line data that anyone can download for free costs about $10K - 200K in Australia depending on usage last time I checked. It's handled by an unlisted public company called the PSMA that various state and other government departments have stakes in but they're every bit as greedy as a private or publicly listed company.

The OpenStreetMap project is a godsend, but let's face it doesn't have the spatial integrity of proper survey data and can be lacking up-to-date (or any) routing information in many locations.

Like Sim City (1)

MrQuacker (1938262) | more than 3 years ago | (#34415328)

They should use the SimCity traffic commute system. In my city my current commute time fluctuates from 0.5 to 30.

IFF the employers even allowed flex time (2)

dltaylor (7510) | more than 3 years ago | (#34415418)

If the employers already allowed flex time, there would be a more even distribution of commuters over several hours, and the problem would smaller to non-existent.

If the employers don't allow flex time (as apparently they don't, as least in useful numbers), it won't matter what information is available to commuters, they'll still have to be arriving at work during peak commuter density periods, and leaving at the corresponding end-of-work-day.

Really want to fix the problem? Maybe you could have an auction every year for employers to buy their preferred work start hours. For 1000 employees, it might encourage them to save a few bucks by buying "off" hours.

Re:IFF the employers even allowed flex time (1)

SheeEttin (899897) | more than 3 years ago | (#34422152)

Problem is, when everyone's working at different hours, communicating/coordinating with them is going to be nigh impossible.
Especially in retail. The store might not be open during normal business hours, so you look it up... And it's only open when you're usually eating dinner/sleeping. Now what?

That's so easy... (1)

Blowfishie (677313) | more than 3 years ago | (#34415656)

You don't need an algorithm for Sydney's traffic, just this

echo car > /dev/null

Can I have my $10,000 now please?

Heisenberg Uncertainty (1)

ThatsNotPudding (1045640) | more than 3 years ago | (#34415714)

Their measurements will alter what they are attempting to measure. Announcing 'that route is gridlocked, use this route' merely results in two gridlocked routes.

Re:Heisenberg Uncertainty (1)

kramulous (977841) | more than 3 years ago | (#34423496)

But improved distribution.

I've got your algo right here! (1)

zippthorne (748122) | more than 3 years ago | (#34415772)

Int(s0..sf,ds/v(s))

Seriously, though, a traffic prediction algorithm that worked ok actually would be useful for designing changes to the roadway to reduce traffic, but I suspect that Australia is probably similar to the US: you probably know what causes the traffic, but for whatever reason, you're unwilling to do what it takes to cut it down. For instance, designing roads for peak capacity instead of average capacity, putting pressure on businesses to spread out work hours more to flatten the curve a bit, and finishing roadwork projects in a timely manner so that the highway isn't in a state of constant (dis)repair with obstructions and distractions.

Well that's simple enough... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34415996)

Hofstadter's Law: It always takes longer than you expect, even when you take into account Hofstadter's Law.
– Douglas Hofstadter

State, not National Government (1)

Cimexus (1355033) | more than 3 years ago | (#34416812)

A nitpick, but an important one: the government in question here is a State government, not the 'Australian' (Federal) Government. To be exact, the government of New South Wales (which contains Sydney).

I'm sure most of you will roll your eyes but I can imagine Americans would have a similar reaction if an article called, say, the government of South Carolina or Idaho or Minnesota or something, 'the American government'.

Knowing changes the answer (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34418268)

If you write something that predicts the delay, doesn't that change the decisions that people make, thus making the eventual outcome wrong anyhow?

My GPS "live" traffic sucks because of that effect.

Heh, misread "commuters" as "computers" (1)

SheeEttin (899897) | more than 3 years ago | (#34422190)

The hope is that the predictions will help commuters make informed decisions about when to travel and on what routes

Heh, I misread "commuters" as "computers" and immediately thought, "What? Australia's already rolling out computer driven cars?!"
Then I read the rest, and I was disappointed. :(

Sydney traffic (1)

geefau (986367) | more than 3 years ago | (#34423746)

I got so sick of sitting in traffic for hours that I moved to the city so I can walk to and from work, I've been doing that about 4 years, it's great - however I miss some things from living in the 'burbs - community, large garage, dog....

But, in reality... (1)

bsercombe72 (1822782) | more than 3 years ago | (#34426996)

This is an Australian state government. What's worse it's the NSW state government. The problem is further exacerbated by it being TRANSPORT related. The end result will be that somehow $350 million will be spent before the whole thing will be abandoned as a bad idea.

why not (1)

brannigan's law (1689880) | more than 3 years ago | (#34463092)

Randomize both time and route. There are enough simple ways such that your route is only elongated by a small margin, but the peak congestion you see can be extremely reduced.
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