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Cellphones to Monitor Highway Traffic

Zonk posted more than 6 years ago | from the using-the-fillings-in-your-teeth dept.

Wireless Networking 119

Roland Piquepaille writes "On February 8, 2008, about 100 UC Berkeley students will participate in the Mobile Century experiment, using GPS mobile phones as traffic sensors. During the whole day, these students carrying the GPS-equipped Nokia N95 will drive along a 10-mile stretch of I-880 between Hayward and Fremont, California. 'The phones will store the vehicles' speed and position information every 3 seconds. These measurements will be sent wirelessly to a server for real-time processing.' As more and more cellphones are GPS-equipped, the traffic engineering community, which currently monitors traffic using mostly fixed sensors such as cameras and loop detectors, is tempted to use our phones to get real-time information about traffic."

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The Netherlands ... (1)

foobsr (693224) | more than 6 years ago | (#22280772)

... already [] has it, the UK and Germany to follow.

Wish those other countries could also follow up with Coffee Shops.


Re:The Netherlands ... (3, Insightful)

wfberg (24378) | more than 6 years ago | (#22281140)

... already has it, the UK and Germany to follow.

The TomTom/Vodafone system doesn't use GPS coordinates being sent by mobiles, it only uses triangulation to work out where handsets are, and how fast they're moving. Highways are already equipped with detection loops every half mile or so, so this is mostly useful for smaller roads. It won't detect roads where cars are at a complete standstill though, if the phone isn't moving fast enough (e.g. less than, say, 4mph) it'll assume the phone's just in the pocket of someone who isn't in a car.

Re:The Netherlands ... (2, Interesting)

owlnation (858981) | more than 6 years ago | (#22281282)

the UK and Germany to follow
Surprising really, that the UK isn't the first -- since it is already leading the World in surveillance technology and legislation that violates both privacy and basic human rights.

Re:The Netherlands ... (2, Insightful)

Gordonjcp (186804) | more than 6 years ago | (#22281642)

I thought that was the US? In the UK, there aren't armed thugs with police badges randomly shooting people. That's what *I* call a violation of human rights.

Re:The Netherlands ... (0, Troll)

The Spoonman (634311) | more than 6 years ago | (#22282418)

Uh, excuse me, those "thugs", as you call them, are American Heroes who put their lives on the line every single day to protect you from terrorists. As everyone knows, a terrorist kills indiscriminately, but an officer of the law occasionally makes a mistake whereby an "innocent" person will get clubbed to death. I quoted "innocent", because we all know everyone's guilt of SOMETHING, and so they got what they deserved, if not for the crime for which they deserved it. By denigrating their actions and calling them "thugs", you're raising a white flag of surrender to the terrorists. So, why don't you go back to Iraq, you commmie-pinko-muslim-hate-monger?!

I'm a republican candidate, and I approve this message.

Re:The Netherlands ... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22284598)

I _believe_ the (grand)parent was referring to the paramilitary, old-lady-tasering, wife-beating (or -murdering, or -multi-murdering), motorist-harassing, citizen-abusing unionized LOCAL uniformed thugs (some call them 'police') - not Military Personnel (yes, the term should be capitalized). THEY are in it for the money and the benefits and whatever they can squeeze-out of the system, in exchange for as little work as possible and as much ego-trip over civilians as possible.

Honest, competent, conscientious law-enforcement officers are in their minority.

Re:The Netherlands ... (1)

overeduc8ed (799654) | more than 6 years ago | (#22282454)

No, it's not too different in the UK... the armed thugs with police badges randomly shoot brown people. I'd say Jean Charles de Menezes [] had his right to an intact head violated [] rather severely by the Metropolitan Police.

Re:The Netherlands ... (0, Troll)

Gordonjcp (186804) | more than 6 years ago | (#22283452)

Yes, but in the US it happens all the time, with no legal recourse. It's perfectly legal for police in the US to shoot whoever they want for any reason. In the UK, by comparison, my civil liberties are "violated" by some minimum wage drone with nothing better to do than watch me stand on a busy street and scratch my arse.

Hmm, let's see, some powerless nerd watching a million people per second walk past a fuzzy camera picture, or random murders written up as "self defence" by trigger-happy morons with a badge? Tough decision...

Re:The Netherlands ... (2, Funny)

rabbit994 (686936) | more than 6 years ago | (#22283638)

Can I get some of tinfoil your using? It sounds like some pretty strong stuff.

Re:The US... (1)

sTc_morphius (948420) | more than 6 years ago | (#22281776)

We are already doing this in the US as well. Guess the college students missed looking that up, but hey, college students often prove things that have already been proven. The data they collect is really stripped down.

Re:The Netherlands ... (1)

Whyskas (784767) | more than 6 years ago | (#22282196)

I didn't see a post covering this particular variant of what's going on so here's my take on it. I'm all for the testing and whatnot as I find it very interesting as well as probably the next step in our future, although, I don't think that the "higher-ups" should be able to "tap" into the information on our phone unless you and it were in an accident. As far as speed and driving the speed limit ... it's not so much that speed kills nor is it what really bothers me. What bothers me is the erratic way that some drivers .. drive. It's not how fast they are going, it's how they are driving! I can't tell you how many times I have been "cut-off" or watched someone around me get "cut-off" by some erratic driver that thinks the public highway system is for their own personal use and that no one else has a right to use it! Just ask almost anyone who drives close or in any major city! It's not so much about the "speedsters", it's more about the reckless endangerment of people around those who drive erratically. When you can stop people from driving "reckless and erratic" then accidents will start to decline ... it's not so much about speeding as most seem to think here.

That's my 2 copper ...

So basically.... (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22280794)

One of these contraptions, then? []


SirBudgington (1232290) | more than 6 years ago | (#22280882)

The link leads to the GNAA final measure. Don't click, it even ruins Firefox on ubuntu.

Re:WARNING: PARENT IS TROLL (2, Informative)

Datamonstar (845886) | more than 6 years ago | (#22280924)

Disable javascript for all but trusted sites.


xaxa (988988) | more than 6 years ago | (#22281036)

How many people will click that to see what it does that is so bad it can take out Firefox? I just did :-) (and it probably takes out Konqueror, but I was quick with the "pkill konqueror" and didn't wait to find out).

Measuring changes results (1)

DanMelks (1108493) | more than 6 years ago | (#22280798)

While well intentioned, I hope these testers remember that measuring a system changes the system.

Re:Measuring changes results (1)

davester666 (731373) | more than 6 years ago | (#22280902)

In...3....2....1....this will be abused by the police to prove you drove 80 mph for the 10 mile stretch instead of 55...

Re:Measuring changes results (2, Insightful)

jamesh (87723) | more than 6 years ago | (#22281132)

In...3....2....1....this will be abused by the police to prove you drove 80 mph for the 10 mile stretch instead of 55...

How is that abuse? Anyone doing 80mph on a road where the limit is 55mph is breaking the law and should be caught and fined, and if they do it too many times, have their car impounded and crushed into a little cube, and then charged a disposal fee for their cube.

I have been doing a lot of driving the last few years and the amount of times I get passed by dickheads doing stupid speeds makes be shudder just thinking about it. If they knew that they were going to get caught, maybe they'd slow down a bit. And fined. Heavily. Every dollar that the government collects in fines is a dollar that they don't have to get from somewhere else (eg my taxes).

Re:Measuring changes results (1)

legallyillegal (889865) | more than 6 years ago | (#22281416)

Every dollar that the government collects in fines is a dollar that they don't have to get from somewhere else (eg my taxes).

No, every dollar they collect from fines is just an added revenue stream on top of your taxes.

Re:Measuring changes results (1)

level_headed_midwest (888889) | more than 6 years ago | (#22281932)

You are both correct, at least in part. Fines are collected completely in addition to taxes for any individual who gets fined (e.g. there is no deduction on your tax forms for government fines.) But governments DO assume there will be a certain revenue from fines each year and put that in their budgets, even though that amount is not actually guaranteed to be there at the end of the year. If the governments did not fine or fine revenue came in well below expectations, their total revenues would decrease and they'd have to either raise taxes, increase the price of future fines, or try some method to increase the number of fines collected. The latter two are the most popular as it does not affect everybody directly and as such is more politically popular. It's much easier to fight against a property or sales tax increase (trot out some old person on a fixed income) than it is to fight fine increases (the government would merely have to say that the person is a criminal to largely discredit their claim.) The big increase in the number of red-light cameras, pressure-sensitive/radio-linked parking meters, and photo radar is enough to show what's going on.

Re:Measuring changes results (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22281752)

I'd almost agree with you if speed limits weren't set stupid low for the precise reason of catching "speeders" and fining them. Set speed limits correctly and I'll have no problem obeying them.

Since you don't sound like the type who'd look into things like that, just go back into your little control-freak paradise, stay in the right lane, and leave the rest of us alone. The next argument I'm going to get is "think of the children". I think of them all the time--I think their parents drive too damned slow and they're annoying to get around.

Re:Measuring changes results (1)

nack107 (704482) | more than 6 years ago | (#22281784)

You are looking at a very small picture. If the police abuse this technology, anyone near the gps coordinates where a crime is committed is instantly a suspect. Speeding is the least of our worries, but since you address it so callously, how about the times where we need to speed? I had to rush someone to the hospital a few days ago. I broke the speed limit. Should my cell phone be telling the cops how evil of a person I am and mail me a ticket? It is a very slippery slope that should be avoided. Traffic control? Sure, if its an opt in system. Mandatory? just give me a cell phone from the nineties that can make a call and you can keep the fancy gadgetry!

Re:Measuring changes results (4, Insightful)

vertinox (846076) | more than 6 years ago | (#22281862)

How is that abuse? Anyone doing 80mph on a road where the limit is 55mph is breaking the law and should be caught and fined, and if they do it too many times, have their car impounded and crushed into a little cube, and then charged a disposal fee for their cube.

I think the problem is that of now, everyone breaks the law every now and then without really thinking about it. If the world got to a state where you got punished every time you broke the law even slightly then such issue would get quite serious.

In fact, I'd wager (if you have a car) that you broke the speed limit somewhere the last time you drove even if it was simply 1 to 5mph over the limit.

The real problem is that many local and state government gets a great deal of revenue from speeding and parking tickets so rather than to alleviate the core problem of they encourage quotas and sometimes post arbitrary low speed limits in order to increase revenue. I mentioned parking tickets because there was story a while back where an Apple Store offered to buy two parking meters outside their store to mark as no-parking zone for aesthetics (you know Apple) at the theoretical price of what those parking meters could provide if they were maned 24/7 365 days a year, but the city refused on the grounds it had never been done but moreover they made more money from parking tickets than the actual meters. Its the same with speeding... They don't want reduction but they want the violations.

If a cell phone system allowed them to charge violators instantly it would result in more of this at the extreme not to mention possible corruption. Recently in Philadelphia, there is a big spat between city hall and the Parking Authority [] about revenue and where it is going and complaints about corruption the the Authority organization.

My first suggestion would be to either have revenues earn not go to the gathering organization itself but possibly elsewhere like education or charity.

And if they want a technical solution, then I would argue that make it so cars can't break the posted limit rather than fining them money every time they violate the speed (and or parking). Now keep in mind, I'm probaly one of the more slower drivers out there you'll meet and you'll never see me park in a place I'm not supposed to (I'm that anal) but the issue that these organizations being allowed another way to squeeze money and make things arbitrarily "more illegal" in order to increase revenue bothers me.

None of these government bodies actually want to curb speeding. Their livelihood depends on it.

Re:Measuring changes results (5, Insightful)

jacksonj04 (800021) | more than 6 years ago | (#22281950)

Making cars not able to break the speed limit is a massive safety problem. I've been in situations (usually on a motorway or other large trunk road) where something has happened, a guy loses control and pings off the central reservation etc and I needed the extra speed *immediately* to get out of the way. If I was already cruising down the outside lane at 70mph (UK limit) then where would I get the extra speed from? I suppose some form of 'burst' limiting could be a solution.

Also there's a huge difference between safe and not. On an empty motorway with clear vision I would say it's safe to do 90mph or up, conversely on a motorway in heavy fog it's common to see people going no faster than 50, and that's on the outside. If you're being really anal about it then some drivers are far safer at high speeds than others. There can be no technical solution to this unless there is a system in place which knows the skill of all drivers, the position of all cars, all road conditions, and is capable of making intelligent judgements about what is safe and what isn't.


Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22282118)


Re:Measuring changes results (1)

WaltFrench (165051) | more than 6 years ago | (#22284826)

but the city refused ... they made more money from parking tickets.

I will never discount the motive of greed. But for all city resources in short supply, i.e., parking in shopping centers, cities have an obligation to ration in some sensible way. Parking meters encourage you to come shop, pay a couple of quarters (50c yesterday in front of the Apple store nearby me), get your couple of items and move on. So somebody else could go get a present at Gap Kids or Williams-Sonoma, etc.

Merchants could get a bit titchy if it seemed that Apple was limiting their opportunity to sell lattés just so Apple could look classy. Shoppers would have to spend more time circling the block, and eventually, go elsewhere.

Higher-cost meters (or big fines for overstaying) are certainly not the only way to ration parking spaces, but it's a bad deal that I spend 5 minutes looking for a spot every time I try to go to my favorite coffee spot on a weekend -- costs me much more than a $1/entrance fee at the lot would. Even if Apple paid 3X the going rate, there would still be fewer spots available, unless the city took the $$$ to expand a garage nearby or whatever.

Re:Measuring changes results (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22287048)

already existing in some countries []

Re:Measuring changes results (1)

trappy420 (1232370) | more than 6 years ago | (#22281894)

That is probably the funniest comment I've read in a very long time. "Dickheads" will just leave their cellphones at home (or turn off their in-car cellphone for that matter) and continue to drive wrecklessly, while anyone doing 57mph instead of 55mph simply because they can't be bothered to stare at the speedometer all the time will get their asses fined time and time again. I won't even go into the details of how concentrating on keeping a given speed will reduce concentration on what's going on on the road...

Re:Measuring changes results (1)

I_M_Noman (653982) | more than 6 years ago | (#22282362)

"Dickheads" will just leave their cellphones at home (or turn off their in-car cellphone for that matter) and continue to drive wrecklessly
Did you spell it "wrecklessly" ironically, or did you mean "recklessly" [] ? 'Cause if you did that ironically it's hilarious.

Re:Measuring changes results (1)

trappy420 (1232370) | more than 6 years ago | (#22282390)

I'd love to take credit for that, but I guess that was just my poor grammar skill ;)

Re:Measuring changes results (2, Informative)

SvetBeard (922070) | more than 6 years ago | (#22282502)

I work in the traffic engineering industry. There are two things you have to realize about speeding: first, many speed limits are set artificially low and second, speed itself isn't dangerous--it's the difference in speed that causes accidents.

The accepted method for setting speed limits is to collect speed data on all vehicles on the road for 24 hours on a typical day. This is usually done using those two rubber tubes you may see placed across the road at times. The speed limit is then supposed to be set at the 85th percentile speed of the traffic. In reality, political considerations often force the speed limit to be something ridiculous like 55 mph. If 85 percent of the traffic is doing 70 mph, that speed limit is unrealistic and will be ignored.

The other part of this is the common misconception that slowing the traffic down will make everything safer. While it is true that accidents that happen at higher speeds are more severe, accidents are caused by difference is speeds. Studies have shown that the number of accidents sharply increases when the differences in speeds between vehicles exceed 20 mph. This means that if you are the guy driving 55 mph when everyone else is doing 80, you are the one driving recklessly. Because of this fact, artificially low speed limits can actually cause accidents.

This standard from the Institute of Transportation Engineers sums everything up nicely: []

Re:Measuring changes results (2, Insightful)

WCLPeter (202497) | more than 6 years ago | (#22283632)

This means that if you are the guy driving 55 mph when everyone else is doing 80, you are the one driving recklessly.
Sorry to burst your bubble but if the posted limit is 55 and I am doing 55, blasting by me at 25 over the posted limit makes you reckless.

We could argue about the road conditions, the rated speed of the road, or your perception that you're a good driver; none of that matters. Driving is a privilege, not a right, and the posted speed is the posted speed. Don't want to follow the rules of the road as posted? Then don't drive.

I'm not in any way saying you can't exceed the speed limit in an emergency situation. However if you're consistently speeding in defiance of the posted limit, thereby putting law abiding citizens at risk, you deserve the ticket you're going to get.

Re:Measuring changes results (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22283838)

"Anyone doing 80mph on a road where the limit is 55mph is breaking the law and should be caught and fined, and if they do it too many times, have their car impounded and crushed into a little cube, and then charged a disposal fee for their cube."

You just _try_ to come take my car away ... we'll have some fun, I guarantee it.

Keep your sorry fascist ass in the right lane, and stay the fuck out of my way, and mind
your own mediocre business. Or be ready to pay the price for trying to mind mine.

Re:Measuring changes results (1)

kesuki (321456) | more than 6 years ago | (#22287064)

location capabilities of cell phones (done via triangulation, not gps) is by default set to 'e 911 only' if you turn the feature on, and the police start using the cell phone company records to prove your speed it's your own fault for turning it on. Still, i doubt that the cell companies even want to collect, and send all that data to the police. if you're not in a call, it uses a lot of network bandwidth to triangulate 'every' phone, every '3' seconds, even if it's only 'the phones on the highway'

it's one thing for a bunch of college students to use the feature to test highway travel times, and a completely different matter to figure out who's speeding.

Re:Measuring changes results (2, Informative) (1195047) | more than 6 years ago | (#22281020)

I wonder if these sort of systems might lead to real-time changes in toll prices some day. Transportation authorities could leverage real-time stats to charge more for passage during peak traffic periods, and this sort of system would accommodate unexpected increases without any additional effort on their part. It could even sense traffic congestion issues in other areas and anticipate upcoming loads. Not that I agree with such practices, just wondering if they'll be implemented. Couple this with highly expanded automatic tolling systems in the future and you've got a recipe for profit (at least for the state).

100 UC Berkeley students (1)

smitty_one_each (243267) | more than 6 years ago | (#22281218)

measuring a system changes the system.
Does this mean that the students do, or do not, end up in front of the Marine [] recruiting office?

I had this idea a long time ago. (2, Interesting)

caluml (551744) | more than 6 years ago | (#22280822)

Another idea I had years ago [] . My idea though was to pay people to run the software on their phones (just as Google pay people to have ads on their sites - paying per hour of data uploaded, or something similar), and then lease the aggregated data to interested parties. Companies interested in building/buying toll roads, government agencies to see if new roads need to be built, etc etc.
However, with SatNav getting more and more sophisticated, it was only going to be a matter of time before TomTom (or whoever) built a model where it uploaded your position back to them, enabling them to build up a realtime picture of traffic speeds, which they could then use to update drivers to avoid jams, etc.

Re:I had this idea a long time ago. (1) (1195047) | more than 6 years ago | (#22281042)

Although your idea sounds nice, I think it's far more likely that we'll see automotive manufacturers paid (or given tax subsidies) to incorporate this technology into automobiles. Sort of an OnStar for the D.O.T. (InTraffic?)

Re:I had this idea a long time ago. (1)

caluml (551744) | more than 6 years ago | (#22281156)

Yep. A previous idea I had was for a black-box for cars. You could buy one, and have your insurance lowered, because it would make working out what happened after a crash much easier. "You did 96 mph through this cross-roads - we're not going to pay."

Re:I had this idea a long time ago. (1)

AGMW (594303) | more than 6 years ago | (#22281474)

"You did 96 mph through this cross-roads - we're not going to pay."

Sure, that's the way to convince people to fit spy-ware into their cars!

If the Black Box was owned by you and no one had authority to examine it without your express permission that might be a different story. You could use it to prove you weren't breaking some traffic rule if you wanted to, or decide not to use the information, at which point the jury could draw their own conclusions.

That might work!

Re:I had this idea a long time ago. (1)

esper (11644) | more than 6 years ago | (#22282902)

"Draw their own conclusions"? You mean like "He's accused of speeding, but won't share the black box data. Therefore, he's obviously guilty of speeding and is probably trying to hide something much worse, too. So now we just have to decide how many millions to fine him for those other, unknown crimes that he's hiding..."?

Re:I had this idea a long time ago. (1)

jonbryce (703250) | more than 6 years ago | (#22281502)

You mean like Norwich Union [] ?

Re:I had this idea a long time ago. (1)

caluml (551744) | more than 6 years ago | (#22281526)

Not really. That's just how much you drive. I built a black-box about 14 years ago, and it measured things like: speed, revs, G force, accelerator, brake, clutch, gear selected, what state the lights/indicators/windscreen wipers were on, etc.
Basically, after a crash, you would have been able to recreate the lead up to the accident exactly. Were they braking, were they at 5000 revs in 3rd gear, or 3000 in 5th. Did they have their lights on, etc.

Re:I had this idea a long time ago. (1)

markdavis (642305) | more than 6 years ago | (#22281586)

The problem is that it is a "slippery slope" ( [] ). At what point does such a device go from being a discount for having one to penalty for not having one? At what point does it go from being an option to a requirement? At what point does it then evolve into something used for times that were not accident related but for any violations? At what point do corporations and governments start monitoring the data without your consent or even knowing.

I see the "slippery slope" proved real all the time. In the 21st century, privacy should be one of our biggest concerns. Never before have so many devices kept track of people- who they are, what they buy, where they go, what they believe, who they associate with, etc. No matter what the original intensions, each new piece of datum collected about people has the potential of being abused. It is human nature, and history has confirmed it.

Re:I had this idea a long time ago. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22281460)

Already being done. Look up VII (Vehicle Infrastructure Integration). Although instead of just reporting back to the DOT, the DOT will also send information out to vehicles, as well as vehicle-to-vehicle communication (creating an ad-hoc mesh network at the same time).

Re:I had this idea a long time ago. (1)

Tony Hoyle (11698) | more than 6 years ago | (#22281254)

They don't need to - you can triangulate the position of any mobile phone to within a few feet if it's switched on.. it just needs someone with access to that data to be able to work out the speeds that they're travelling.

Re:I had this idea a long time ago. (1)

caluml (551744) | more than 6 years ago | (#22281428)

Wrong. It's generally from about 300 metres in cities to 1-4 miles in rural areas. And it's not that accurate. It's just the point in the middle of the towers that your phone can "see". Check out [] - it uses both methods. GPS when I'm running the GPS app on my phone, and cell-triangulation at other times. Currently, it says I'm at 51.452371,-2.618589 +/-372 metres. Good, but not that good. Plus you only update when you make/receive a call/text/data session, switch the phone on/off, change cells, or every 90 mins otherwise. Way inaccurate for tracking cars.

Re:I had this idea a long time ago. (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22281314)

You don't need software, or even a GPS.

They've been doing this for a year in Belgium, purely on a basis of cell network data (first a regional test project, turned nationwide half a year ago).

Triangulation delivers location data with a pretty good resolution (something like 15 meters).

All cell phones that are powered on are being tracked. The collected data are anonymized (SIM card ID removed after some preprocessing to detect routes followed), so they can see that "someone" drove a certain route in a certain amount of time at a certain time of day, but there's no way to find out who it was (otherwise the whole system would become very illegal, and we're not talking about the government here, but about privately owned companies).

Re:I had this idea a long time ago. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22282274)

I think to make this really valuable is to connect the gps mapper traffic updater to the car so a driver can get real time MPG and a gas station down the road picked out based on user set variables. also to make the units aware of each other so that the driver beside you knows that someone really needs this next exit in 1000 feet.

Re:I had this idea a long time ago. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22283498)

People have been talking about this for years. The one company that looks promising is Dash [] . Their GPS device has a GPRS modem to upload data back to their server. The data is then filtered and sent down to all the users. Obviously this would be useful only if there was a certain sweet spot of number of dash users. Obviously this would be far more pervasive if done using cell phones.

Call me crazy...but (2, Insightful)

William Robinson (875390) | more than 6 years ago | (#22280862)

skeptical -1

Will it not be misused by finding the routine information of people?

Re:Call me crazy...but (1)

Dan541 (1032000) | more than 6 years ago | (#22280898)

skeptical -1

Will it not be misused by finding the routine information of people?

Mayb not today, Mayb not tomorro.... but some day!

Re:Call me crazy...but (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22282026)

Somethin i eatin ou trailin letter :(

Re:Call me crazy...but (2, Funny) (1195047) | more than 6 years ago | (#22281070)

Perhaps in the future systems like this will be linked into your phone to deliver real-time advertisements for nearby stores, restaurants, etc. Of course, using your cell phone while driving will still be illegal...

*** INCOMING TEXT MESSAGE *** Get 2-for-1 pizzas at Papa John's!!!! Turn right ahead.

*** INCOMING TEXT MESSAGE *** Buy lingerie for that special someone at Victoria's Secret!!! Turn left ahead.

*** INCOMING TEXT MESSAGE *** Buy [driver chucks cell phone out window]

*** INCOMING TEXT MESSAGE *** You've violated local littering ordinances. Your account is now being billed the appropriate fine. Have a nice day!

I only care about getting me there (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22280868)

Why not? We're all stuck in traffic anyway. How about using your cell phone to call your legislator to DEMAND accessible, affordable mass transit that gets you where you want to go when you want to go there? I'm for anything that will get me to where i want to go, faster.

Re:I only care about getting me there (5, Interesting)

lukas84 (912874) | more than 6 years ago | (#22280990)

No country i know has got mass transit that allows you to ditch the car.

I live in Switzerland, and some people argue that it has one of the best mass transit systems in the world - if that is true, other country must REALLY be in a heap of shit, because it sucks bad here.

Mass Transit just isn't flexible enough to help most people. There are cases where it might be better than sitting on congested streets, but that doesn't make it good. If i expect congestion, i'll just take the motorcycle instead of the car - this has downsides of it's own, but it's still better than taking the train or bus.

Re:I only care about getting me there (1)

matt4077 (581118) | more than 6 years ago | (#22281432)

As someone living in Berlin/Germany, I must say it's perfectly possible to get by without a car, at least in the places I have lived so far (towns >= 40,000). A car might be required in more rural areas or if your job requires it. And yes, sometimes a car would be more convenient, but it's a lot cheaper to just rent one for those occasions.

Re:I only care about getting me there (1)

lukas84 (912874) | more than 6 years ago | (#22281944)

I guess it depends on lot on the people you know, where you want to hang out, and what kind of work you do.

During the day, i usually visit customers all over the map. Driving from customer to customer with a car or motorcycle is simple, convenient and fast. I can take whatever equipment with me that i need (more so in the car, less so on the motorcycle). I don't have to worry where a customer is located, when the trains are going or whatever. After i'm done, i just get into my car and drive to the next location. With mass transit, i'd be in a whole lot trouble. Several customers are in industry locations where you get maybe a single bus per half hour, and then have to wait an hour for a train. For me, that is simply not acceptable.

For my groceries and everything, i do these by foot, with the exception of buying water/drinks, which i do once a month. I could have these delivered, but it doesn't matter that much.

After my job, there's a lot of variety. I go directly to the nearest City here, taking Mass Transit is an option IF i'm sure to come back before 2300 (otherwise, the busses in my hometown don't drive anymore, and i'll have to pay for a cab). It get's even worse if you visit other people - because in other smaller towns, busses also stop driving at 2300, so you'd have to leave at 2100 or so to get home.

The biggest downside of using the car/motorcycle in my free time is that i can't drink alcohol. Otherwise, there are just advantages.

I don't know much about Berlin, i was only there once. Can you reach the outskirts of town 24/7? How long do you have to wait to catch the next train/bus/tube?

I live in tUSA (2, Informative)

stomv (80392) | more than 6 years ago | (#22281690)

and ditched my car 7 years ago. I live in Boston across the street from a subway stop. There's another one a few hundred yards away, a third line 1 mile away and a fourth 1.3 miles away. I ride my bicycle year round for many trips 5 miles or less, and arrive faster than the subway or a car. Walking a mile is also no big deal, and I occasionally car pool if a neighbor and I are both headed to a meeting or event.

What about groceries? Smaller trips or deliveries [] . What about big purchases? If I ever needed one, I'd borrow a friend's car or sign on to zipcar [] . What about weekends in NYC? I take Acela [] or the bus. What about weekends in rural Vermont? I rent a car for $40 a day. The combined total of non-air travel for my wife and I: $2500/yr, and that includes a combined total of 5 months of time out of Boston. Can your car ownership costs -- insurance, gas, tires, lubes, car payment/depreciation, parking, tickets, tolls, taxes, and repairs match that?

Yeah, you can ditch your car. Doesn't mean you'll never have to borrow or rent one, but it does mean you'll likely save money, operate an auto for fewer miles per year, get a bit more exercise, have a chance to read a magazine or book while using transportation once in a while, and contribute to a higher quality of life for yourself and your community. Don't let the perfect [a completely car-free society] get in the way of the good [a society where the average miles driven per driver is under 5,000, or even less].

Re:I live in tUSA (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22283330)

Yeah man but how much is your rent living right across the street from a T stop? And maybe walking a mile after work for something or other isn't a big deal for you but what if you were a road paver, or worked at UPS packing boxes, or a cook, or even waited tables for a living.

It's easy to say how easy things like this are when you're coming from a position of privilege.

Big Brother (2, Insightful)

Dan541 (1032000) | more than 6 years ago | (#22280878)

Will this gps information be warrantless?

Bad bad bad (0, Flamebait) (1181167) | more than 6 years ago | (#22280884)

Bad bad bad bad bad bad bad bad bad bad. Anyone who doesn't know why?

Slashdot users rape babies (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22280888)

Yes they do! Linux users are all fat losers

Slashdot stories to monitor website traffic (1)

houghi (78078) | more than 6 years ago | (#22280920)

On Fberuary 3, 2008, about 100.000 Slashdot readers will participate in the clickvertising experiment, using website increase to Ronad Piquepailles site. ...

"What did you do..." (1, Flamebait) (1181167) | more than 6 years ago | (#22280922)

"So Dad, what did you do while you were in college?"

"Well son, I helped testing this monitoring system that allows the government and some big companies to track your every move nowadays. But in my time, they only used it to do a traffic thingy."

Cell phones and GPSes (1)

amasiancrasian (1132031) | more than 6 years ago | (#22280932)

I never understood why GPS is considered such a good feature in a cell phone. On the contrary, it is possibly a bad thing, given the number of cases of wire tapping, cell phone eavesdropping (even when turned off [] ). We already have enough privacy concerns given that triangulation can already tell a close-enough location of a cell phone user.

Cellphone triangulation (1)

boris the engineer (1128699) | more than 6 years ago | (#22281010)

Talking of cellphone triangulation, one could get a much higher sample size by just averaging the movement of the vast sea of mobile phones driving down the road. Almost 100% road coverage without needing shed loads of people to have a GPS enabled phone and the appropriate software.

In fact, Google says that Missouri is one step ahead of me: []

Re:Cell phones and GPSes (1)

esper (11644) | more than 6 years ago | (#22282942)

I believe the argument in favor of cellphone GPS is that it allows emergency responders to find you when calling 911 from a phone line that isn't tied to a fixed location.

Call me olde fashioned but... (3, Insightful)

blacklabelsk8er (839023) | more than 6 years ago | (#22280980)

The more I see stories like this, the more I feel that a full-on Big Brother world could be oncoming. Sure, it could provide all kinds of data on the technicalities of GPS tracking via mobile phone triangulation or whatnot, but how much danger is there that these kinds of 'experiments' could be field tests for a greater invasion of privacy? RealID or even RFID, combined with this sort of GPS tracking could provide all the pieces needed to make our highway system a channelized control mechanism.

I should be more 'forward thinking' for my age I suppose. Does anyone else think that our privacy outweighs the convenience that realtime navigation and itinerary interactivity could potentially provide?

Re:Call me olde fashioned but... (1)

rohan972 (880586) | more than 6 years ago | (#22281064)

Does anyone else think that our privacy outweighs the convenience that realtime navigation and itinerary interactivity could potentially provide?

Yes, Ron Paul does. []

Bad summary of the experiment (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22286016)

I work for this experiment. I was going to say everyone on here misinterpreted this as some big brother thing, but then I realized the summary just sucked. The whole point of the experiment is to prove that this traffic monitoring can be done while preserving anonymity. Here's a better summary: []

From the better summary:
"This system is unique in that protecting the privacy of the cell phone owner is the highest priority, even occasionally at the expense of increased data quality. The system is designed with a distributed architecture, where no single entity has complete knowledge of the phone identity and fine grained location information. In addition to anonymously transmitting encrypted position and speed information, data is only collected when the user identity and trip route cannot be reconstructed."

Seriously, if UC Berkeley is doing research on technologies to track your every move, the black helicopters are already on their way...

TomTom HD traffic does this without GPS (1)

rigolo (416338) | more than 6 years ago | (#22280982)

Last year TomTom announced their HD Traffic system [] that is using GSM handset location information from Vodafone to determine traffic conditions on dutch highways. Every 3 minute TomTom gets raw, anonymous handset location data from Vodafone. This data is then processed to determine where on the high ways large concentrations of mobile phones are moving slow. This might mean that there is a traffic jam at that location.

Each TomTom with HD traffic will also be equiped with a GSM sim and this enhanced traffic information is send via GPRS to these devices.

Some people are questioning the validity of their claims that this give better traffic details that current methodes. What is a car has broken down? will it trigger a traffic jam notification? How about paralell roads that are jammed? Or taxi's waiting at the trainstation for a pick up?

Re:TomTom HD traffic does this without GPS (1)

Dan541 (1032000) | more than 6 years ago | (#22281368)

What is a car has broken down? will it trigger a traffic jam notification? How about paralell roads that are jammed? Or taxi's waiting at the trainstation for a pick up?
I agree how can you tell how many cars there are by the number of phones?

Lets not forget busses/trams that add a huge number of phones to the area but only one vehicle, trains that dont affect road traffic (with the exception of railway crossings) and pedestrians, will two people walking down the footpath be counted as 2 slow moving cars.

If I have 5 people in my car it means there is a minimum of 5 phones in one vehicle and other times there is just me with 1 phone.


solution? (1)

robo_mojo (997193) | more than 6 years ago | (#22281072)

Turn off the phone when you're driving.

Being the proud owner of one of theese things.. (1)

mille666 (798904) | more than 6 years ago | (#22281074)

..I would suggest bringing their battery charger along. 10miles with the GPS enabled is a little on the excessive side for the N95.

Old. (1)

Kankraka (936176) | more than 6 years ago | (#22281088)

Is it just me.... or.... did I read the same article on /. a few months back?

Re:Old. (1)

MollyB (162595) | more than 6 years ago | (#22281410)

Is this [] what you were referring to? Sorta similar.

On their way to a protest? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22281122)

Given that this is UC Berkeley, is it possible they are just on their way to another protest? Kind of ironic that students at UC Berkeley would be testing a technology to track individuals, unless it is to promote some sort of East Bay social engineering program...

How is this amazing? (1)

ephemeralspecter (990286) | more than 6 years ago | (#22281220)

The only difference between this and what is done regularly by transportation research groups is the fact that instead of using normal gps devices, they just happen to be cell phones as well this time... I personally covered a few drive shifts when some of the interns where I work couldn't make it.

Funny how the article perpetuates the myth (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22281316)

that you actually need a GPS phone to be accurately tracked.

In fact, any phone can be tracked. This is because of how the phones operate. A phone, while it is on, sends at set intervals these pings. In a suburban area you're constantly surrounded by a telco receiver antennae mesh. Thus the ping is received by multiple receivers. Using data of just 3 such receivers, your position can be pinpointed. It's called "signal triangulation". See e.g.,,sid7_gci753924,00.html []

It's called gBook MX in Japan (1)

macdigger (1031146) | more than 6 years ago | (#22281394)

I have a system like that already installed on my car. It's called gBook MX ( [] ) In Japan, we already have a system called VICS ( [] ) which monitors traffic on highways and some big/medium sized roads, using sensors placed over the road to track the speed of car flow, and then this information is gathered, processed and broadcasted to cars' navigation systems (by an FM radio signal, afaik) in a form of level of traffic on roads (which then used by navigation system to lay out the most optimal route) However, I think about a year ago, Toyota have created another system called gBook MX (there also was gBook alpha variation, but honestly I don't know much about it). gBook MX (in addition to allowing you to wirelessly access information which is not on a navi's hard drive), also supports centralized traffic monitoring system similar to the one in TFA. Basically, your navigation system is connected to the W-CDMA network (provided by Japanese mobile operator AU), and sends position of the car while it's on the move, to the data center, every 5 or 10 seconds. This information is processed and broadcasted you back in the similar way as VICS above. Navigation systems which support gBook MX come in two flavors - ones with built-in transmission module (so you basically have a mobile phone-like transmitter built into your car), and the ones which allow you to pair your mobile with the navigation using Bluetooth (that's the type I have). So I just basically enter my car, start the engine, the navigation system automatically connects to my phone, and I become a GPS broadcaster of a sort (my coordinates are broadcasted to data center every 10 seconds - and it would be every 5 seconds if I had a buillt-in broadcasting module). The traffic for this broadcast is pretty low so I don't really care if my monthly bill goes up by 100-200 yen/month (after all, it's so cool to be a part of this new system ;) What's good about gBook MX is that it allows traffic monitoring for smaller roads, where there are no VICS sensors installed. Toyota said that it needs at least 100,000 cars equipped with gBook MX-compatible modules in order to get adequate coverage of the country. I don't know how many cars have this system on-board yet, though. But once the system is in place (it's already in place, but I think the number of "compatible" cars is still lacking somehow), this will be another way to escape traffic jams..

Re:It's called gBook MX in Japan (1)

macdigger (1031146) | more than 6 years ago | (#22281402)

Sorry I have no idea where all my carefully crafted line breaks gone :(

Between Hayward and Freemont? (1)

Kelz (611260) | more than 6 years ago | (#22281406)

Slow from 6-9:30 and 4:30-7:00, mostly northbound in the morning, mostly southbound in the evening. When do I get my grant money?

Constant Surveillance but "This is just a test" (1)

sciop101 (583286) | more than 6 years ago | (#22281440)

Bad idea! Constant Surveillance and privacy invasion.

Somebody will come up with a "friendly" name, such as Living Vigilance .

1. Cell Phone transmits location, receives location-based advertisements.

2. Smile & Wave at Security Camera.

3. REAL ID\driver's license (still in pocket) scanned at shop entrance.

4. Smile & Wave at Security Camera.

5. Credit card scanned at purchase. Purchases registered and recorded.

6. Smile & Wave at Security Camera.

is my cell-phone becomming "me"? (1)

Grampaw Willie (631616) | more than 6 years ago | (#22281790)

maybe hacking is a good thing. with all the hacking going on I'll just tell the judge "yer honor I was going 55 some hacker sent you this complaint that says I was going 80 but it just is not true. everyone knows software is completely un-reliable"

tee hee

Why Phones? (1)

tomhath (637240) | more than 6 years ago | (#22281786)

It doesn't make sense to use phones or triangulation to track cars. Keep in mind that driving is a highly regulated privilege, not a right. Within a few years you can be pretty sure that a GPS will be required in every motor vehicle (looking at you, sport bike riders). Have fun getting out of those speeding tickets, claiming you stopped at the stop sign, weren't weaving all over the road, weren't at the bank when it was robbed, etc. It's going to happen.

Re:Why Phones? (1)

vertinox (846076) | more than 6 years ago | (#22281882)

Keep in mind that driving is a highly regulated privilege, not a right.

Freedom of travel is a basic human right. (Papers please!) I suppose its questionable how you do it though. If you can't get there by bus, train, or air and hitchhiking and pedestrians on highways are illegal then tell me how does one travel freely?

Re:Why Phones? (1)

tomhath (637240) | more than 6 years ago | (#22282460)

I don't see how regulating the operation of a motor vehicle has anything to do with freedom of travel. And besides, the law already requires that you have a license, the vehicle be registered and street legal, that you obey traffic regulations, etc. All of that relates to an even more basic right, personal safety. Doesn't it?

Will I be stuck? (1)

EB FE (1208132) | more than 6 years ago | (#22281804)

I am constantly forgetting my cell phone at home or at work. Will I then get to a red light and be stuck because the GPS says I'm not there?

bigbrother vs Nokia N95 (1)

4D6963 (933028) | more than 6 years ago | (#22281856)

The bigbrother tag amuses me, because it seems to imply that this cell phone GPS thing could be used against your will to track you or something. Well I've got a N95 and I have no fear of that happening, because for the GPS to synchronise you need to slide your cell phone out and wait about one minute and a half in a clear outdoors location. So clearly using a N95 you can be sure that the GPS will only be used if you want it to be used.

Re:bigbrother vs Nokia N95 (1)

Forbman (794277) | more than 6 years ago | (#22283210)

Well, the first thing I did when my now ex-wife filed a restraining order on me (more or less standard dirty trick procedure in divorces these days) was turn ON the active GPS tracking on my cell phone. I need to have some sort of alibi available to me in case she decides to do it again.

Divorce sucks.

dupe of a dupe of a dupe of a dupe of a dupe of... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22281990)

This is at least the eighth time that essentially the same story has been posted on slashdot [] [] [] [] [] [] []

Even the trolls have more variation than this.

Anonymyzed access protocol (1)

Craig Ringer (302899) | more than 6 years ago | (#22282276)

It'd be interesting to provide a facility in phones to help make this less prone to privacy issues & semi-legal use by law enforcement. For example, allowing stations to poll passing phones for position and "instantaneous" speed (calculated internally by the phone using, say, the last 3 GPS position checks). Something like that would permit phone responses to omit any unique identifier since there would not be as much of a need to connect multiple responses from a single unit.

An alternative would be to generate a short-lived random ID on the first request by a base station and have it expire after, say, 2 minutes, with no record of it being retained in the phone.

Personally, I'd actually like it if things like phone and vehicle GPS could be used to enforce road safety rules... if I could trust the police to use it only for what they're legally allowed to use it for, rather than for random fishing expeditions and illegal surveillance. Since that'll NEVER happen, I guess the only option is strong anonymity for this sort of data collection.

Not new. (2, Interesting)

Blrfl (46596) | more than 6 years ago | (#22282734)

This isn't new by any stretch of the imagination.

In 1994 (that's pushing two decades ago) I worked on a pilot project with Bell Atlantic Mobile (now Verizon), FHWA, Virginia DOT and the Maryland DOT that tracked mobile phones along the Washington, DC Beltway. The phones didn't have to cooperate, and it was also discovered that call rates went through the roof just as backups started to form. A bunch of the technology we developed ended up in some of the early E911 systems.

Re:Not new. (1)

Blrfl (46596) | more than 6 years ago | (#22282752)

Ugh. Where did I get the two decades figure? Let's do the math...

(Takes the square root then the arctangent, carries the 1...)



Real Time Earthquake Monitoring (1)

rotenberry (3487) | more than 6 years ago | (#22283136)

Anyone who has lived in an earthquake zone knows that even a ten second warning of an impending earthquake could save many lives. Dive under a desk, stand in a door frame, get out of an elevator, stop your car, etc.

I wonder if cell phones equipped with GPS and an accelerometer could provide such a warning? Even if only twenty per cent of the accelerometers registered abnormal acceleration, a real time analysis of the data would show the distinctive expanding wave front that could only be caused by a major earthquake. People could then be alerted by cell phone or radio.

Track Me? Sure! (1)

morari (1080535) | more than 6 years ago | (#22283170)

Just another reason why not having a mobile telephone is better.

How is this a story? (1)

Jason Pollock (45537) | more than 6 years ago | (#22284998)

How is it a story that a bunch of students are going to try to do this, when there are already commercial services providing the same information? Heck, /. even covered this back in 2005! []

And that was something like the 4th time the story had been posted.

there's also: []

and these guys have been around for ages. []

You know what? If they were running a free service that everyone could register with, and it integrated with google maps, then it would be a story.

Oh wait, ZipDash was bought by Google back in 2004...

The news here? That they're paying US$250 for the days work.
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