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Tracking Traffic Jams With Cell Phones

kdawson posted more than 7 years ago | from the eye-in-the-tower dept.

130

kaufmanmoore writes, "Companies and governments are looking to alternatives to expensive radars and road sensors to track traffic jams. Two Atlanta-based companies are aiming to use data from wireless carriers to mark how fast phones are moving and overlaying that with maps to calculate traffic conditions. One of the companies, AirStage, has already partnered with Sprint-Nextel and the Georgia DOT to cover Atlanta's notorious traffic. The plans raise obvious privacy concerns over the usage of the data of your cell phone's location and the accuracy of this data." From the article: "[The] systems rely on wireless companies allowing them to process the data from their towers that calculate the position of each phone about twice a second when it's being used and once every 30 seconds when it's not. [One company's technology] can track vehicles to within 330 feet without using Global Positioning System satellites. Its software is designed to weed out the difference between pedestrians and drivers, then crunch it into detailed color-coded maps that show average speeds along roadways."

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Superman (2, Funny)

Esion Modnar (632431) | more than 7 years ago | (#16729721)

If he had a cellphone, this could really screw things up.

Actually... (1)

parasonic (699907) | more than 7 years ago | (#16731109)

If he had a cellphone, this could really screw things up.
Here in Atlanta, in whatever traffic condition, jam, whatever it is, you will STILL see someone on a cellular phone, weaving and going about 90MPH.
 
By the way, Atlanta is already well-covered. Lots of people whom I know make use of this map [georgia-navigator.com] . I wonder what the GDOT could have up their sleeves with this project.

Re:Superman If (1)

davidsyes (765062) | more than 7 years ago | (#16731683)

Leatherface had a cell phone, he could, too... Oh. wait...

Re:Superman (1)

JohnnyLocust (855742) | more than 7 years ago | (#16731929)

Dang. For a second there I thought the head line said "Jamming Cell Phones in Traffic".

Re:Superman (1)

caluml (551744) | more than 7 years ago | (#16733081)

I've been tracking my location with this technology, and making it available on my webpage [calum.org] for years. It's not accurate enough to determine the speed you are travelling though (I made sure of this first!).

In the near future (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#16729723)

Automated speeding tickets will show up on your cell phone bill.

Re:In the near future (1)

b0s0z0ku (752509) | more than 7 years ago | (#16729851)

Automated speeding tickets will show up on your cell phone bill.

How do you differentiate between the cell phone of a driver, a car passenger, and a bus passenger? Besides, EZ-Pass has had this capability for years, yet they aren't using it because people would refuse to use the system. (The only exception is that they ticket for speeding through the toll plazas themselves, presumably because workers could get hit.)

-b.

Re:In the near future (1)

novus ordo (843883) | more than 7 years ago | (#16729947)

Or a catapult? Or airplane? Would be a fun exercise.

Re:In the near future (1)

stunt_penguin (906223) | more than 7 years ago | (#16730361)

Two words : Rocket Sled.

Yeay! (1)

The Lone Man (1017800) | more than 7 years ago | (#16729725)

Now we can pay absurd amounts of money per month for service, and get all our rights to privacy stripped away! Heck yes!

Re:Yeay! (1)

Mr Z (6791) | more than 7 years ago | (#16730799)

I'm not sure I see an issue. The subscriber motion data would be reported in aggregate. It's not like someone could hop on a website and see that subscriber 214-555-1212 is doing 80 in the show-off lane. And it's not like it's any sort of proprietary marketing data either, such as your personal preference for pimento loaf. It really is pretty much the same data they're collecting from road sensors, as long as the data's aggregated and reported as totals.

Re:Yeay! (1)

The Lone Man (1017800) | more than 7 years ago | (#16730841)

Well yes, you can believe that, but being cynical will tell you otherwise. What are the chances that these figures aren't eventually going to help the US track down its 'terrorists'. It's just another carte blanche in the government's possession.

Re:Yeay! (1)

Mr Z (6791) | more than 7 years ago | (#16730929)

Actually, law enforcement can subpoena individual subscriber location records and updates already, so that line has already been crossed. They typically do this for missing persons cases and emergencies and so on, as I recall, but I'm sure it can be (and is) used for other purposes. The part they haven't done yet (and I don't think this can provide as yet) is a database of where every subscriber has traveled that can be queried ex post facto. That's the truly scary end point.

--Joe

Re:Yeay! (1)

Talchas (954795) | more than 7 years ago | (#16733613)

As long as they have to get a subpoena, then its ok - thats how the system is supposed to work.

Re:Yeay! (1)

msromike (926441) | more than 7 years ago | (#16732027)

The difference, as I see it, is that road sensor data is not personally identifiable. The position of your cell phone is.

There are plenty of privacy issues attached. Where you drive on a daily basis could be calculated and cataloged. An alert could be set for when ANYONE leaves their "sandbox." The alert would not have to be immediately attended to by a person. It could simply be a matter of assigning more computing resources until a higher threshold of suspicion was reached. Finally a human could have a real time video, of whatever container your cell phone was in at the time, pop up his screen with trend data and probability analysis of your most likely destinations and intentions.

If the storage and computing power isn't there yet, which I have a hunch it already is, then it is just a matter of time before this is technically feasible. That is just one example. An imaginative person (or government) could think of many more.

Mike

Cell phone traffic analysis... (1)

MeatFlap3 (741121) | more than 7 years ago | (#16729733)

It seems we should turn off the cell phone when not using it. If you must be contactable at all times, get a one-way numeric pager. You shouldn't be using the cell phone while driving anyway!

-r

Re:Cell phone traffic analysis... (1)

smitty_one_each (243267) | more than 7 years ago | (#16729805)

It seems we should turn off the cell phone when not using it.

Nah, go the other direction: let's have every vacuous twit in North America calling every other one while driving, and then start cascading the accidents to the point that nothing moves.

This will trivialize the traffic analysis problem.

Re:Cell phone traffic analysis... (1)

tftp (111690) | more than 7 years ago | (#16730073)

let's have every vacuous twit in North America calling every other one while driving

You are too late with this plan.

Re:Cell phone traffic analysis... (1)

cayenne8 (626475) | more than 7 years ago | (#16730297)

Well, if they implement this, as a sprintpcs customer....till my contract runs out, I'll be shutting off my phone, and taking the battery out while driving.

I paid too much for my radar detector, and CB to just get an automated speeding ticket by cell phone. I know this first one can't resolve to get you yet...but, they will.....they will.

And we all know how the cops and govt. would salivate over automating the "collect and serve" practices of today.

How much does traffic information help, anyways? (1)

timeOday (582209) | more than 7 years ago | (#16729741)

I'd be interested if somebody has done a study to determine how much additional throughput is gained by giving X% of drivers congestion information. My guess is it would do more to reduce the variance of travel times than it would to reduce the average travel time.

Re:How much does traffic information help, anyways (1)

Dun Malg (230075) | more than 7 years ago | (#16729867)

I'd be interested if somebody has done a study to determine how much additional throughput is gained by giving X% of drivers congestion information. My guess is it would do more to reduce the variance of travel times than it would to reduce the average travel time. It would depend entirely on the amount of traffic. In god-awful places like the Los Angeles area, knowing there's an exceptional traffic jam doesn't help, as any and all alternate routes are already filled to capacity under "normal" conditions. In an area where traffic is normally light and there's an unusual traffic-inducing event, knowledge of the anomaly gives people the opportunity to route around it.

Re:How much does traffic information help, anyways (1)

Dun Malg (230075) | more than 7 years ago | (#16729941)

I'd be interested if somebody has done a study to determine how much additional throughput is gained by giving X% of drivers congestion information. My guess is it would do more to reduce the variance of travel times than it would to reduce the average travel time.
It would depend entirely on the amount of traffic. In god-awful places like the Los Angeles area, knowing there's an exceptional traffic jam doesn't help, as any and all alternate routes are already filled to capacity under "normal" conditions. In an area where traffic is normally light and there's an unusual traffic-inducing event, knowledge of the anomaly gives people the opportunity to route around it.

Cat got your tongue? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#16730329)

Did it really take you 9 minutes to figure out you didn't say anything the first time, or is that how long the system made you "slow down, Cowboy"?

Re:How much does traffic information help, anyways (1)

merreborn (853723) | more than 7 years ago | (#16730349)

I'd be interested if somebody has done a study to determine how much additional throughput is gained by giving X% of drivers congestion information. My guess is it would do more to reduce the variance of travel times than it would to reduce the average travel time.

As much as it seems a given that "You're going to have to drive home anyway", if you're in a situation where you can take advantage of the couple hours you'd otherwise spend in a traffic jam, being able to discover abnormal traffic ahead of time is a godsend.

That being said, I'm not sure that the benefits of this technology are sufficiently greater than existing technology ("traffic every 10 minutes" radio stations that already distribute this information on the web, as well as OTA), to justify the added privacy concerns.

A lot (1)

electrosoccertux (874415) | more than 7 years ago | (#16730771)

What's the use of reducing the average travel time if some days it takes you 9 minutes, and other days takes you 33? Doesn't matter if my average commute is only 16 minutes, I have to leave 33 minutes before work every day to make sure I'm not late. Some days I get there 24 minutes early. I'd appreciate anything that can reduce the standard travel time deviation.

Re:How much does traffic information help, anyways (1)

pilgrim23 (716938) | more than 7 years ago | (#16732317)

You are starting with the assumption thatto study the traffic flow has a direct practical pupose. Silly person! This research is designed to be slick, ingenious, quantifieable, and aimed like a laser as the two basic needs: 1 a grant to cover it, and 2 a opening of that age old phrase somewhere warmly tucked into the conclusion: "This demonstrates the need for further study". Thus demonstrating the need for an additional grant.

Watchin ME or watching THERE? (3, Interesting)

icebike (68054) | more than 7 years ago | (#16729743)

If the phone companies strip identifying information from data one might be
tempted to think there is no problem in making this information available.

However, the privacy concern may not be limited to the ability track a specific phone, which they would probably require court permission to do.

There are lots other uses, and abuses of such technology, such as finding where tonight's big party is located, which local watering hole is over-capacity, how much traffic the local liquour store (or street corner dealer) is getting.

Even if such uses were void of personal data, they provide data about the location,
whether that be a private home or a business.

Re:Watchin ME or watching THERE? (1)

b0s0z0ku (752509) | more than 7 years ago | (#16729939)

There are lots other uses, and abuses of such technology, such as finding where tonight's big party is located, which local watering hole is over-capacity, how much traffic the local liquour store (or street corner dealer) is getting.

If you're worried, turn off your cell phone. If you're *really* worried, remove the phone's battery. I keep mine off while driving anyway because I tend not to want to be disturbed nor tempted into picking up a call *now*. If they need to, clients can leave a voicemail, and I check every hour or so. Out of all of the systems that destroy privacy in this world - and there are quite a lot of them - this is one of the lowest priorities on my list. Cell phones can be turned off if the user doesn't wish to be tracked. Simple as that. It's an opt-in system. Now, if the government mandated locating transponders on all cars, I'd be pretty pissed. But this is just using an existing technology to make people's lives a bit easier and save time.

-b.

Re:Watchin ME or watching THERE? (1)

icebike (68054) | more than 7 years ago | (#16730027)

> Cell phones can be turned off if the user doesn't wish to be tracked.

You managed to miss the entire focus of my post in your rush to reply.

I was commenting on the fact that I, You, We, may allow violation of privacy of other entities merely by walking in with a cell phone, EVEN IF our personal identity were protected by the cell phone company.

When 400 phones show up in a club with a capacity rating of 350, can cops and fire marshals be far behind?

Re:Watchin ME or watching THERE? (1)

b0s0z0ku (752509) | more than 7 years ago | (#16730043)

When 400 phones show up in a club with a capacity rating of 350, can cops and fire marshals be far behind?

This system is claimed to have a 300-foot resolution. Not real useful in telling which building exactly people are in, nor if they're inside or standing outside having a smoke.

-b.

Re:Watchin ME or watching THERE? (1)

Venik (915777) | more than 7 years ago | (#16731819)

Well, today it's 300-foot resolution and tomorrow they'll deploy some new electronic gadget and it'll be 3-foot resolution. By that time this cell phone-snooping practice will be established and in use by your friendly neighborhood Homeland Security folks, among others. So we are talking about a general principle here, not about the performance of specific hardware they have today for tracking cell phones. Who knows, they may already have equipment capable of higher accuracy, but they choose to keep it under wraps for now, until the method gets legally established and accepted by the public.

Re:Watchin ME or watching THERE? (1)

mr_matticus (928346) | more than 7 years ago | (#16730405)

So you're saying the highway has a right to privacy? I understand the spirit of your assertion, but the technology already exists--phones are already tracked and have been for years. This simply puts that data to use. The system is no good for crowd control--not at 100 meter resolution. The potential for abusing that data has existed for years and will continue to exist.

There's nothing wrong about a system that indicates that there are x people within 100 meters of point y. There is very little real privacy left, but so what? I'm not being coy about the loss of civil liberties--I'm saying they're already gone and not many people realize it, nor do they care. It certainly doesn't impact your choice of actions, legal or otherwise. When there's a department of people charged with monitoring what people do, or when the data from these machines starts falling too easily into the wrong hands, then there's a risk to privacy.

When 400 phones show up in a club with a capacity of 350, cops are never far behind, period. Police keep an eye on all "hot" establishments--it's not like this system is going to give them enough detail to learn something they didn't already know, and it's not like there's enough police to cover all the hot spots anyway.

Re:Watchin ME or watching THERE? (1)

pedrop357 (681672) | more than 7 years ago | (#16732245)


When 400 phones show up in a club with a capacity rating of 350, can cops and fire marshals be far behind?


Nope. I usually have two on me-my company issued Blackberry and my personal cell phone. I know lots of people who have two phones with them.

Re:Watchin ME or watching THERE? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#16730159)

What would you do if all cars had the transponders and they were not mandated? Okay that's a little far fetched. Let's say a particular car maker...GM? My point is that government doesn't have to mandate anything if they just nudge their buddies they keep seeing around "fundraiser time."

Re:Watchin ME or watching THERE? (1)

b0s0z0ku (752509) | more than 7 years ago | (#16730251)

What would you do if all cars had the transponders and they were not mandated?

If they'd not be mandated and there was no legal consequence for turning the transponder off or making it unable to communicate, I'd simply turn mine off. It's doable with things like On*Star from GM, and I'd rather take the infinitisimal risk of running off the road, hitting a tree and bleeding to death before an ambulance comes than be tracked all the time. As long as it's not mandated by law and there's no consequence other than a decrease in personal safety for turning it off, it doesn't raise my ire too much.

-b.

Re:Watchin ME or watching THERE? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#16731221)

Now, if the government mandated locating transponders on all cars, I'd be pretty pissed
What makes you think that cell-phone tracking, once widely implemented, won't lead to this? People won't vote against it because they figure "hey they're already doing this through my phone."

Re:Watchin ME or watching THERE? (1)

LiquidCoooled (634315) | more than 7 years ago | (#16730133)

The data needn't be the phone locations itself.
It could simply be an area map showing density and flow, kind of like a windspeed chart [bbc.co.uk] on a weather map.

Re:Watchin ME or watching THERE? (1)

jdcope (932508) | more than 7 years ago | (#16731923)

My state, (Oregon), is already testing a GPS system. They want to track us for road taxes. Apparently our gas taxes arent enough, especially with so many people purchasing hybrids.

If they decide they want it, then we all have to get a "little black box" installed in our cars.
Some suspect they will also start charging us "congestion taxes" as well. The receivers will be at the gas stations, and will assess your mileage and add the taxes to your bill when you purchase fuel.

Talk about a "slippery slope"!

Re:Watchin ME or watching THERE? (1)

Garrett Fox (970174) | more than 7 years ago | (#16732433)

Sure, there are legitimate uses -- but where are we hearing that we're going to have access to them? So far all I hear (and I could just be paying too little attention) is story after story about governments and corporations watching us, with no transparency in the other direction because we want "privacy." David Brin's book "The Transparent Society" presented a society with ubiquitous monitoring activities like "Is the pub busy? Is there someone in that alley?" as a reasonable alternative to the entirely-one-way monitoring we seem to be heading towards.

I knew this sounded familiar... (1)

Surye (580125) | more than 7 years ago | (#16729757)

We need to use cell phones to track ,,. (1)

ad0gg (594412) | more than 7 years ago | (#16732261)

duplicate slashdot stories.

How many times must this story be posted? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#16729761)

Seriously? List of previous postings [slashdot.org] . And yes, it's the same company.

You're not helping... (1)

RootsLINUX (854452) | more than 7 years ago | (#16730005)

Great! Now thanks to you we also have a duped comment for this duped article :p

Differentiate between cars and pedestrians (1)

orkysoft (93727) | more than 7 years ago | (#16729765)

So, how does one differentiate between pedestrians and cars in a traffic jam?

Re:Differentiate between cars and pedestrians (1)

Rachel Lucid (964267) | more than 7 years ago | (#16729853)

The pedestrians are moving.

*ba-dum-CHING*
 
... okay, actually, this is pretty easy. If you can get them to only pay attention to certain streets (like 75/85 or whatever I-number you like), then pedestrians are, if anything, moving perpendicular to the flow of traffic.

All things considered, I was always told I could be tracked by my cell phone, and I consider it a safety feature more than an invasive detail. And considering I'm a liberal, that's saying a lot.

Re:Differentiate between cars and pedestrians (1)

Misch (158807) | more than 7 years ago | (#16729983)

What about a paralell feeder road that has pedestrians walking along it?

Re:Differentiate between cars and pedestrians (1)

amRadioHed (463061) | more than 7 years ago | (#16730147)

Seems simple enough to me. If there is a traffic jam, the cars and the pedestrians will both be going slowly. In regular traffic you will see some phones moving slowly and others moving rapidly. The fastest moving phones are the ones of interest to you for traffic monitoring.

Re:Differentiate between cars and pedestrians (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#16729921)

Er, just guessing here, but I imagine they use some kind of sophisticated computer "program" called an "alogrithm".

Maybe it takes into account a recent route/speed history or something, but it's a pretty limited problem domain so I'm sure all those clever people what make computer things ("programmers") can find a way.

Re:Differentiate between cars and pedestrians (1)

Jerf (17166) | more than 7 years ago | (#16730269)

If there are signals travelling 80mph and signals travelling 4mph (and that's a good run/jog), then clearly the flow is at 80 mph.

If there are only signals travelling 4 mph, then clearly the traffic is stalled. Figuring out exactly which signal is which isn't important.

Pedestrians aren't the problem. The problem would be a parallel street within the error margin (common because highways are often basically run right over old popular routes, and sometimes the old popular routes are still there, so you can get multi-mile runs of a well-travelled road well within 300 feet). The highway can be completely clogged while traffic might still be flowing well on that side street. (I've seen this when the highway is unexpectedly clogged due to an accident and where there are no exits to move flow onto the side street for a ways.) However, even this situation could be ascertained with an extremely high degree of confidence with some rather simple statistics; a clogged highway in this situation would still show as hundreds of stalled signals, which could still be picked out as an abnormal situation, even if other signals are moving at 60mph.

It's a problem, yeah, and maybe you'd actually want to have someone with a real degree in computer science or statistics tackle it, rather than a "code monkey" (and note the scare quotes), but it wouldn't even rate what anybody would call "AI". Worst case scenario is a couple of isolated road segments that for special reasons are particularly hard to deal with, but even then you could probably solve the problem by considering a bit more data. (That is, if you can't figure out whether a particular half-mile segment of the highway is moving, for whatever reason, you can still get a good idea by looking at the segments on either side that you do know are the highway. Across the long term, traffic flow in must equal traffic flow out, so eventually if there is a slowdown in the particular mystery segment, you can infer that from other segments.)

Re:Differentiate between cars and pedestrians (2, Interesting)

Silver Gryphon (928672) | more than 7 years ago | (#16731823)

Also... roads don't change their location (except during a 10.5 in California). Overlay movement data to road maps. Picture cell phones in dots on a screen. If you see a flow of dots on a screen, moving at > 20mph at any point in time, that's a road. Track one dot; if it slows down and then goes > 5mph, it's still on a road. If it stays under 3mph while others move faster, it's now a pedestrian or otherwise disqualified from the flow.

Privacy issues are not as bad as people think; anyone with a GPS-tracked 911-enabled phone made in the last 3 years is being tracked while it's on. Anyone concerned with privacy should also consider that their conversations go through the network of the very provider that knows where they are; talk about Aunt Midge's cancer treatments can be heard just as easily. Whether third-party snooping can be done depends on encryption, and that doesn't count the person 10 feet away who heard the credit card number just used to place an order of pizza. People in general complain about privacy and fail to realize just how much technology encourages them to compromise it themselves.

I would encourage the responsible use of this tech to track traffic patterns in a non-personally-identifiable way. A unique ID assigned to a dot, with as little info as necessary to track movement; no link to an account, etc. The cell provider already has the info, so they can control its use between departments by translating one unique ID to another and severing the link between the two. I do this for HIPAA-safe medical claims; de-identify the patient and the rest is valid data that can never be traced back.

Re:Differentiate between cars and pedestrians (1)

MobileTatsu-NJG (946591) | more than 7 years ago | (#16731879)

"So, how does one differentiate between pedestrians and cars in a traffic jam?"

Outside of L.A. you could determine that by whether or not they're on a sidewalk.

Re:Differentiate between cars and pedestrians (1)

kramulous (977841) | more than 7 years ago | (#16732061)

I seriously doubt that their accuracy is 330ft. I've written code that triangulates my phone to within 2 metres and this is only knowing the location of some mobile towers.

This said, you can overlay the "bleeps" onto a road map and use some funky edge detection software to derive all.

How long? (1)

Opportunist (166417) | more than 7 years ago | (#16729767)

How long 'til it's used to ticket me for speeding without the hassle of actually putting a cop at the corner?

Re:How long? (1)

FateXtreme (947698) | more than 7 years ago | (#16729823)

We already have Speed and Stop Light enforcement via cameras.....

Re:How long? (1)

Joe The Dragon (967727) | more than 7 years ago | (#16729843)

after the cell phone Companies stop rapeing you for the data bill. But this will not even get to that point with you havening to pay $0.05 a kb.

Re:How long? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#16730489)

I think you will be safe for a while. IANAL (and this may have changed since I took driver's ed.), but considering that speeding fines can be thrown out when the radar equipment is questionable (e.g. when its service or calibrations are not up to date), it shouldn't be too hard to question the data collected with this method.

Re:How long? (1)

houstonbofh (602064) | more than 7 years ago | (#16731621)

This is being done in Houston right now using the RFID toll road tags. http://traffic.houstontranstar.org/layers/ [houstontranstar.org] However, the second they start writing tickets, all of Houston dumps the RFID tags, and they have to hire a LOT of toll both operators. The same thing will happen to the phones. The phone companies will not cooperate with anything that will encourage people to turn off there phones.

Re:How long? (1)

Misfit Taz (962802) | more than 7 years ago | (#16733417)

What a good idea, it would catch more ciminals, without the expense of police manpower or the installation of speed camera's.

However all it would prove is that your mobile phone was traveling at speed, whos to say that phone was on your person or in the car that you was driving.

Dupe! Double Dupe! Triple Dupe! Dupetacular! (1)

nmb3000 (741169) | more than 7 years ago | (#16729803)

Wow, this might just be a record. Maybe not all exactly the same thing, but still the same idea :)

http://yro.slashdot.org/article.pl?sid=05/11/19/14 3247 [slashdot.org]
http://yro.slashdot.org/article.pl?sid=06/08/10/23 37259 [slashdot.org]
http://hardware.slashdot.org/article.pl?sid=05/11/ 01/159241 [slashdot.org]
http://yro.slashdot.org/article.pl?sid=05/11/19/07 45248 [slashdot.org]
http://slashdot.org/article.pl?sid=02/12/30/124324 7 [slashdot.org]
http://slashdot.org/article.pl?sid=05/10/16/076217 [slashdot.org]

Congratulations Slashdot, on having sextuplets (though maybe there are other, lost stories)!

Are you fucking kidding me? (4, Informative)

Pink Tinkletini (978889) | more than 7 years ago | (#16729813)

How many times does this article need to be duped on Slashdot?
  1. Tracking Traffic Jams With Cell Phones
    http://yro.slashdot.org/article.pl?sid=06/11/05/22 20211 [slashdot.org]

  2. Tracking Your Cell Phone for Traffic Reports
    http://yro.slashdot.org/article.pl?sid=06/08/10/23 37259 [slashdot.org]

  3. Baltimore to Test Cell Phone Traffic Monitoring
    http://slashdot.org/article.pl?sid=05/11/19/143247 [slashdot.org]

  4. Cell Phones to Monitor Traffic Flow
    http://slashdot.org/article.pl?sid=05/11/19/074524 8 [slashdot.org]

  5. Using Cell Phones to Track Traffic
    http://slashdot.org/article.pl?sid=05/11/01/159241 [slashdot.org]

  6. Tracking Cell Phones for Real-Time Traffic Data
    http://slashdot.org/article.pl?sid=05/10/16/076217 [slashdot.org]

  7. Finns To Use Cell Phones To Monitor Traffic Jams
    http://slashdot.org/article.pl?sid=02/12/30/124324 7 [slashdot.org]

  8. Using Cellular Traffic to Monitor Traffic Jams
    http://slashdot.org/article.pl?sid=02/06/13/042822 9 [slashdot.org]

Re:Are you fucking kidding me? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#16729863)

No, but I like your userid. Are you into watersports?

Tracking dupes with cellphones.... (2, Funny)

EmbeddedJanitor (597831) | more than 7 years ago | (#16729965)

Hey no harm in wishing!

Re:Are you fucking kidding me? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#16730095)

I dunno, 8? Or were you trying to make some sort of point?

Re:Are you fucking kidding me? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#16730187)

Slashdot has editors that don't edit. Nor do they actually read the original articles (but hey, who does?). Slashdot is like the utterings of a geek with Tourettes.

Re:Are you fucking kidding me? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#16732303)

How many times does this article need to be duped on Slashdot?

Until it dawns on someone that this is the 'legitimate' reason the government will use to start *logging* all that geo-location data your mobile is capable of producing.... and gets a +5 insightful for doing so.

So how long before... (1)

drc003 (738548) | more than 7 years ago | (#16729825)

...they track how many traffic jams are a result of cell phones?

walking in LA (1)

macadamia_harold (947445) | more than 7 years ago | (#16729857)

Its software is designed to weed out the difference between pedestrians and drivers, then crunch it into detailed color-coded maps that show average speeds along roadways.

I doubt they even have to employ this software in LA. From what I hear, nobody walks in LA. (I won't be fooled by a cheap cinematic trick, It must have been just a cardboard cut out of a man, Top-forty cast off from a record stand.)

Re:walking in LA (1)

kaufmanmoore (930593) | more than 7 years ago | (#16730153)

I hope nobody is walking on a freeway in any part of the nation.

...and how does this help? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#16729895)

It's like those radio traffic alerts on I-78, US-1/9 and other routes into NYC...as soon as people here there is a jam on 78, all the cars are on 1/9 and you create another traffic jam. It's an unstable routing algorithm. The real answer came to me in a dream. We need MORE roads, LESS cars, and another tunnel into Manhattan.

Almost... (1)

Pink Tinkletini (978889) | more than 7 years ago | (#16729975)

What we really need is fewer roads, fewer cars, more restrictions on driving, and more public transit. It looks likely that Bloomberg's administration will spend its last years following London's example [streetsblog.org] , perhaps even going so far as to turn whole sections of Manhattan into pedestrian-only zones. Making it easier to get around the city can only be good for the regional economy, and personally, I'm all for it.

You're kidding right (0, Troll)

Colin Smith (2679) | more than 7 years ago | (#16730061)

You think anyone should use London as an example of a sane public transport system? And yes it's still a crap place to live.

 

Re:You're kidding right (1)

b0s0z0ku (752509) | more than 7 years ago | (#16730281)

You think anyone should use London as an example of a sane public transport system? And yes it's still a crap place to live.

Replace London with Britain actually. You'd think with all of the bizarre laws that are being put in place in Britain these days (ASBOs, banning of anything even remotely dangerous, etc) that Guy Fawkes had the right idea nearly 400 years ago.

A penny for the old guy,

-b.

Re:Almost... (1)

b0s0z0ku (752509) | more than 7 years ago | (#16730079)

It looks likely that Bloomberg's administration will spend its last years following London's example, perhaps even going so far as to turn whole sections of Manhattan into pedestrian-only zones.

Just please don't institute the *fucking obnoxious* system of congestion charging that Red Kenny Livingstone saw fit to introduce in London. Using automated cameras to recognize and record license plates has major privacy implications. And there's already a working system of congestion charging for vehicles entering Manhattan in place - it's called tolls on the bridges and tunnels. Fortunately, Manhattan is an island. If you really wanted to, you could raise and lower the tolls depending on the time of day/week.

I wouldn't even be opposed to all-electronic toll collection provided that you could buy pre-paid RFID cards payable by cash to stick on your windshield. After all, cash toll plazas could have auto license plate recognition cameras as well, so the privacy implications provided that cash can be paid are pretty small.

London is one of the places in the world with the least amount of privacy for its citizens (subjects?). Let's not emulate all of the misguided "reforms" that Livingstone chooses to implement. There is, after all, a reason why the USA seceded from England 230 years ago.

-b.

Spaghetti Junction anyone or 35+ mile commutes? (2, Informative)

Gernok (977745) | more than 7 years ago | (#16732353)

For the most part in the Atlanta metro, mass transit, or public transit will, for the most part, only work inside the perimiter. With the outlying metro counties commute averaging 35 miles and 50 miles one way is not unheard of, transit lines sufficiently long enough would be a problem to create in this area. I knew people who were commuting from Aniston Alabama to the King/Queen Buildings (about 100 miles one way) as well as from Chattanooga to Downtown (about 115 miles one way).

And what gets me isn't so much as the capacity of the roads here, they've just ingeniously devised such wonderful bottlenecks (Spaghetti Junction [wikipedia.org] , 75s/285e and the fact that it faces directly into the Sun during the summer months, The downtown connector [southeastroads.com] where i75/i85 merge) and they work slower the poured molasses in the frozen arctic. I live up 575 [southeastroads.com] and since May they've been working on an building a lane from Exit 7 to Exit 8 (1 mile) which would allow a large portion of the bottleneck there to avoid merging with continuing traffic, and they are still not done! And lets not forget GA 316 [southeastroads.com] ... Though that's a nightmare, when they start construction on it, hell on earth would be a description...

This brings another part of the Atlanta metro area's traffic into light... The non-highway roads are extremely screwed (and most of them named Peachtree) to the point it's easier to get on the freeway for one mile and take the 10 minutes to go that one mile, than it is to drive the city streets, which can take you 5 - 10 miles to get to the same point and are a convoluted mess worse than the highways here.

And about the Norther Arc, that would have been great. I commuted 55 miles one way (I refuse to live Gwinnet County) and Highway 20, which is one lane each direction has fully loaded semi trucks driving from Canton to Lawrenceville. Couple that with school buses and it's not unheard of to take an hour and 45 minutes to go Highway 20. If an accident happens on Highway 20, you're screwed. Without GPS navigation or extremely decent maps (and the ability to read them) you will not be able to get around the accident and even if you get to a point that you can turn off to get around that accident, following the country roads can take a half hour to go a few miles up the road to get around the accident. Country/County roads here make absolutely no sense and you don't know you're coming up on the road you need/want until you have nearly passed it.

For another description of Atlanta's screwed up roads.. [insiders.com]

But fewer roads isn't going to work here in the Atlanta Metro Area... We could definitely use more intelligently designed interchanges.

As a side note: Some students at Georgia State created a video [youtube.com] to see what would happen if people here drove the speed limit.... People actually pulled off on to the shoulder to get around them...

Re:...and how does this help? (1)

YrWrstNtmr (564987) | more than 7 years ago | (#16729999)

We need MORE roads, LESS cars, and another tunnel into Manhattan.

1/3 of your statement is correct.

Re:...and how does this help? (1)

b0s0z0ku (752509) | more than 7 years ago | (#16730035)

It's like those radio traffic alerts on I-78, US-1/9 and other routes into NYC...as soon as people here there is a jam on 78, all the cars are on 1/9 and you create another traffic jam. It's an unstable routing algorithm. The real answer came to me in a dream. We need MORE roads, LESS cars, and another tunnel into Manhattan.

There's a lot of room for improvement without pushing more roads through. For example, the approaches to the Holland Tunnel could be converted into either an elevated or a depressed freeway. As they are right now, the traffic lights slow traffic down a lot. Secondly, either eliminate tolls entirely and replace them with an increased fuel tax or make electronic collection of tolls mandatory. Electronic tolls have privacy implications, but no more so than normal cash tolls if implemented correctly. By "correctly", I mean selling pre-paid RFID cards with a set cash value at every corner store for cash. When they're empty, they can be returned to be refilled. No ID required, no questions asked. Sure, they could use license plate cameras to correlate the card with the car, but they could also just use plate recognition cameras at cash toll points or on highway signs as it is.

Also, the railroad system needs to be improved. The "heavy" passenger trains into NYC are, for the most part, using heavy locomotive-hauled rolling stock straight out of the 1940s. Slow to accelerate, slow to brake. We need state, federal, and union regulations changed to allow the use of lighter multiple-unit trains that accelerate and brake much faster than their American counterparts and can be split and coupled together at station stops, rather than taking 15-30 min to split or reconnect cars.

-b.

Consumers need to negotiate terms (1)

foniksonik (573572) | more than 7 years ago | (#16729903)

When our presence, our body is being used for commercial gain we should be getting a cut.... a kickback for opting in to be a part of the service. Cellular companies nickel and dime us to death with various 'services' that should be part of the standard package and then they get to resell us as data to some 3rd party without giving us something back??? I say no.

Re:Consumers need to negotiate terms (2, Insightful)

YrWrstNtmr (564987) | more than 7 years ago | (#16730021)

I say no.

We don't care. We don't have to. We're the phone company.

Re:Consumers need to negotiate terms (1)

qzulla (600807) | more than 7 years ago | (#16731185)

Arrgh!!!! Leave me alone!!!

Johnny Fever

So, when do I see a credit on my bill... (1)

solitas (916005) | more than 7 years ago | (#16729989)

...for being used as one datapoint in the product they'll be selling their traffic-data customers?

traffic.com has them beat (1)

INeededALogin (771371) | more than 7 years ago | (#16730141)

Cool site that goes live tomorrow.

mobi.traffic.com [traffic.com]

I imagine this won't survive Slashdot, but please destroy it(I need some numbers:-). This is not meant for a web browser to all people who will say that it looks ugly in Firefox.

Re:traffic.com has them beat (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#16732011)

I imagine this won't survive Slashdot

I guess not :D

Cars vs Pedestrians (1)

flyingfsck (986395) | more than 7 years ago | (#16730175)

It should be easy to weed out the cars and pedestrians. The cars are the ones that are stationary...

This is going to be fun (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#16730205)

Flash mob, walking down a major street all talking on cell phones.

Equally as likely would be the reverse. (2, Interesting)

Lethyos (408045) | more than 7 years ago | (#16730293)

“Causing Traffic Jams With Cell Phones”

Once someone has an accident you can all report the incident and resulting congestion right away!

Why [Your Idea For Traffic Control] [Sucks] (1)

aldheorte (162967) | more than 7 years ago | (#16730351)

Someone needs to come up with a checklist for why [someone's technical solution for avoiding traffic jams] is [impractical/unworkable/unacceptable] like I have seen here on Slashdot for spam. It seems we constantly hear about some new proposal for eliminating traffic jams, yet none of them ever come to fruition. I'll throw out some general reasons why:

1. The solution generally assumes that everyone opts-in. This is impossible. Not everyone is going to buy a new device to assist in traffic tracking. If an existing device, not everyone is going to have that device.
2. The tracking accuracy of the device or measurement system is poor. Look at this article. 330 feet? In places where traffic is congested, 330 feet can cover 6 streets.
3. Who is going to pay for this? Fine, you could technically get some traffic statistics if your device magically worked and everyone participated. Is it actually a sustainable business? Doubt it.
4. How much is it going to cost? We are talking a lot of bandwidth here to be getting enough data (and through low/expensive bandwidth mediums like cell networks, et cetera), and a lot of processing of that data against geographic databases to be able to do any meaningful data analysis.
5. So let's say you took care of the technical hurdles and had a lot of data and processed it and you had a great map of traffic in the local metro region. You are now parked on your ass in the operation center viewing your beautiful map, which is great and all, except you aren't driving and everyone who is driving has no idea how beautiful your map is. How are you going to get this information to people who are actually, you know, in traffic?
6. As a follow up of (5), let's say that you had a little printer in everyone's car and printed out your beautiful map right to their passenger seat. They pick it up, and while they are googling at its beauty and trying to locate where they are on the map, they plow right into the back of oil truck, explode, and die. Thanks, you just caused a huge backup, asshat. Assuming you get the information to the drivers, how are they going to be able to interpret the data with minimal attention while they are, you know, driving?

I would go on (and I hope someone else does), but these various traffic jam proposals that never work out are getting kind of silly. Everyone thinks they are a genius because they figured out that hey, if we got information on where are the cars are... and we put it on a map.. with like computers and stuff... we'd like... solve traffic! Except that getting from "genius idea" to "practical and effective traffic control" is non-trival.

Re:Why [Your Idea For Traffic Control] [Sucks] (1)

kramulous (977841) | more than 7 years ago | (#16732107)

I'm sure their accuracy is far greater than 330ft ... they just don't want to alarm people [insert snigger here]

I believe this information would be useful to the signal processing to provide feedback to the algorithms determining the length of time traffic lights stay at a particular colour. This helps automate the process given that the edge detection algorithms used to process the images coming from traffic cameras is far more expensive and determinate of the watching control person [dull job]. The "turn left" green light may stay on and people will move to that lane. Then the algorithms can divert to another route.

Is this not how Internet pipes work? [conceptually]

Irony (1)

KingKiki217 (979050) | more than 7 years ago | (#16730385)

Quick, take down the news story about traffic jams by sending them too much traffic!

Wow (1)

LindseyJ (983603) | more than 7 years ago | (#16730495)

That this is at least the 8th time I've read this story wouldn't even be so bad if it didn't attract the tinfoils like flies who post the same comments in every one.

Where's the real benefit (1)

RESPAWN (153636) | more than 7 years ago | (#16730721)

As somebody who current lives in Atlanta, I'm still trying to figure out how this is going to benefit me. The traffic question in Atlanta isn't one that can be solved by planning alternate routes around large traffic jams. The problem here is that the traffic is everywhere and at the right (wrong?) time of day there really is no good alternate route that isn't congested. Atlanta growth has far outstripped its ability to build the necessary road infrastructure to handle the traffic. What they really need in this city is more capacity or a second, outer loop around the city, but that plan has been talked and talked about for years and it seems that none of the 5 or 6 counties in the area can ever agree on a solution for an outer loop.

My solution to the traffic problem? I'm moving in a week to a place without this kind of insane traffic.

Re:Where's the real benefit (1)

tweek (18111) | more than 7 years ago | (#16731771)

The problem with Atlanta is that some dumbass decided that taking two interstates and merging them together downtown was a grand old idea.

Then a new group of dumbasses decided that the problem wasn't fucked up enough and they decided to throw a major highway into that merge as well.

Depending on when I leave the house in the morning, it can take me 45 minutes to an hour to go from Northridge on 400 to 14th street where I exit. God forbid someone spills a coke on the road in which case that commute is now 2 hours ;)

For those not familiar with Atlanta, that is a 21 mile commute.

My wife's is even worse as she has to get to the other side of the city (Aviation Blvd area).

What if I'm a pilot... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#16730729)

..with a plane full of passengers? Oh, and we all have cellphones.

AC

Uh Oh (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#16730755)

All your cell phones is belong to us!

How/why? (1)

StikyPad (445176) | more than 7 years ago | (#16730813)

Its software is designed to weed out the difference between pedestrians and drivers

So how does that work? Any sufficiently slow-moving vehicle is indistinguishable from a pedestrian. Hell, sometimes pedestrians are moving faster than the traffic.

Although it's difficult to say whether or not it's even necessary, since if all phones in a certain area are moving at 2-3MPH, it's more likely due to traffic than, say, no cars on the road. Maybe not at 2AM (except on New Years), but that shouldn't be hard to account for.

Shouldn't be that hard (1)

grahamsz (150076) | more than 7 years ago | (#16730877)

If two phones are moving down the same street and one is going much faster than the other, then you can probably assume the slower of the two is a pedestrian.

If a phone is moving the wrong way down a one way street then it's a pedestrian (or elderly driver)

Pedestrians tend to move at a much more regular speed in urban areas. Sure they have to stop at lights, but they keep moving steadily whereas traffic jam traffic is usually stop/start.

Once you've identified a phone as a pedestrian then you can exclude it's data for some period of time or until they exceed 10mph.

Things like lightrail could be more problematic though.

mod Down (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#16730949)

resulted in the All major surveys by clicking herE juggernaut either part of GNAA if the accounting EFNet, and apply

Great! (1)

qzulla (600807) | more than 7 years ago | (#16731123)

Now I need to make a tin hat for my cell phone.

qz

How fast is your cell phone moving? (1)

pluther (647209) | more than 7 years ago | (#16731157)

Great. It's bad enough that I just got a $400 ticket issued by a camera, but now my phone is going to be able to give me speeding tickets, too?

Re:How fast is your cell phone moving? (1)

IHC Navistar (967161) | more than 7 years ago | (#16732377)

Traffic cameras are for lazy police departments.

Consider this.... (1)

TheCybernator (996224) | more than 7 years ago | (#16732635)

CellPhone: You are moving faster than the average vehicle at this time.

Driver: Yeah....coz i gotta pee....n my home is still 10 miles

CellPhone: You have been moving faster than average vehicle for more than 10 minutes. You are tagged to be a potential terrorist. A neutralizing missile is on its way.

Driver: @#$%..i peed in my pants...am slowing down

CellPhone: Too late. An F-16 is hovering to make sure to dont dodge the missle.

5 seconds later....

BOOM!!!

The problem with missile guiding system boomed the F-16 instead.
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