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MIT Researchers Fight Gridlock with Linux

Soulskill posted more than 6 years ago | from the open-roads-with-open-source dept.

Technology 75

nerdyH brings us a report about a Linux-based device being developed at MIT which aims to reduce traffic congestion as well as assist automotive research projects. "The current focus of the project is in developing algorithms that run on top of the portal application to help drivers plot the best route at a given time. For example, the team's MyRoute project includes applications that model delays observed on road segments as statistical distributions. Various algorithms then use these to compute optimal routes for different times of the day. 'Instead of asking the shortest time or shortest distance from point A to point B, you ask what route should be taken, say, for the highest probability of getting to the airport by a certain time depending on the time selected,' says Madden."

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Then only the hackers (0)

sammyo (166904) | more than 6 years ago | (#22282226)

that know how to game the system will ever get to the airport on time, cool.

The system is pointless in many areas (1, Insightful)

Travoltus (110240) | more than 6 years ago | (#22282966)

In most metropolitan cities, ESPECIALLY in California, all local roads are hopelessly jammed during rush hour.

If you fly overhead over Sacratomato on most days, you will see tendrils of red (red tail lights) spreading rapidly all over the city between 6:45am and 8:30am, until the whole city is utterly clogged. Almost nothing is passable in this city during rush hour; by 7:30, there are no alternate paths in the city that can get you out of a traffic jam if you are, say, commuting from Elk Grove to Carmichael.

Then there are the Roseville (highway 80, 65, etc.) and West Sac 5/50 mashups - two areas (there are more but for bandwidth's sake I'll leave them out) where roughly 10 lanes of traffic join and compress into 5 or less, forcing people to lane change like crazy to get where they won't get knocked off the freeway by an offramp in their lane. Sorry, I can't leave out the Natomas mashups - I feel sorry for the fools commuting from Roseville to downtown. And you poor souls trying to get to Wal Mart off Truxel, I'm praying for you right now.

The #1 problem on the street routes are traffic lights, and then also the traffic regulators - the utterly insulting red lights that you have to wait behind to get on the freeway. I would arrange a public flogging for those who put traffic regulators on onramps and for those who don't program traffic lights to weight right-of-way more towards the heaviest traffic.

Then we can worry about planning people's routes, as by then we would have actual passable routes.

Re:The system is pointless in many areas (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22283522)

People want better routes, more lanes, better signals, but people don't want construction, don't want to see buildings/areas become public property for expansion, and most of all, don't want to pay for it.

I think... (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22282228)

Person A: I think Linux is the best OS for traffic control because it has LOW LATENCY.

Person B: I think Linux is the best OS for traffic control because it has HIGH THROUGHPUT.

Person A: LOW LATENCY!

Person B: HIGH THROUGHPUT!

Of course, B is right, but it's all moot because instead of being scantily clad women the participants in this discussion are probably unshowered nerds.

Re:I think... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22283158)

It could be scantily clad unshowered nerd women with a ballpark frank tucked under a fat flap for eating later.

No live data? (5, Interesting)

timeOday (582209) | more than 6 years ago | (#22282230)

Within a few years I don't think we'll just be using statistics of past data, but rather real-time traffic data from cars that link into a real-time network. All it will take is a certain density of smartphones with GPS.

Re:No live data? (4, Insightful)

farkus888 (1103903) | more than 6 years ago | (#22282336)

that may take longer than you are guessing. mostly because uptake of smartphones is going to be quicker among the technically elite. judging by slashdot posts that particular crowd seems to dislike the idea of someone tracking where they are all the time. people who jump on this are probably not going to be getting gps phones till the free phone from their carrier has it. or you could go with the assumption that what is posted is likely far from what these people do in their real lives... for example how many of these privacy nuts use gmail?

Re:No live data? (2, Insightful)

Jeff DeMaagd (2015) | more than 6 years ago | (#22282406)

GPS isn't necessary. E911 location is probably "good enough" for this type of location and it's in every phone right now. I woudn't go for it because both systems suck down batteries. Another reason I wouldn't want to participate in a program that would help the Department of Fatherland Security anyway, they'll probably find some way to get unfettered access to the information.

Real time rerouting for evacuation (2, Insightful)

Geoffrey.landis (926948) | more than 6 years ago | (#22282456)

I wouldn't want to participate in a program that would help the Department of Fatherland Security anyway, they'll probably find some way to get unfettered access to the information.
Hmmm.... Trying to think of a rationale that might be used for why Homeland Security would have to want to look at the traffic jam data, they could say that they need the data to practice so that, if it ever happens that a disaster means that they need to evacuate a city, they could develop a system that would allow them to do wo without clogging the streets.

But actually, that would be a good us of the system; if there ever were an evacuation, it would be useful to have a system to reroute around the inevitable traffic jams...

Re:No live data? (4, Informative)

rvw (755107) | more than 6 years ago | (#22282432)

In the Netherlands TomTom and Vodafone are experimenting with this. They track the movement of mobile phone users along the highway. That way they can see how the traffic is moving. You get the data on your TomTom if you take a subscription.

Re:No live data? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22286010)

Been there done that, it's not very useful when only you and 2 other people within a 40 mile radius use it (In the Netherlands)

Re:No live data? (1)

timeOday (582209) | more than 6 years ago | (#22282532)

Maybe, but then look at TiVo and other PVRs. Their uptake doesn't seem to be slowed by spying on you. And in that case, the spying doesn't even give the consumer anything in return.

Re:No live data? (1)

Colin Smith (2679) | more than 6 years ago | (#22282640)

judging by slashdot posts that particular crowd seems to dislike the idea of someone tracking where they are all the time.
Really? Some of us subscribe to services which do exactly this, and gps enabled phones are available for free today.

e.g.
http://shop.carphonewarehouse.com/pay-monthly/nokia/n82-titanium/o2/n3018/ [carphonewarehouse.com]
 

Re:No live data? (4, Insightful)

ptbarnett (159784) | more than 6 years ago | (#22282422)

Within a few years I don't think we'll just be using statistics of past data, but rather real-time traffic data from cars that link into a real-time network. All it will take is a certain density of smartphones with GPS.
The data is already available in many metropolitan areas:

http://www.xmradio.com/navtraffic/market_coverage.xmc [xmradio.com]

The methodology for gathering the info varies, but in Houston they use the electronic tolltags, even on roads that are not tolled. By measuring the time between stations, it calculates the average speed of cars on that segment.

The results are downloaded into the navigation system in my car, and depicted as green, yellow, or red bars adjacent to the route. However, I've never been able to determine if the GPS routing uses the speed information to calculate the fastest route, as I don't live in an area for which speed information is available. A couple of years ago, it was reported on Slashdot [slashdot.org] that Baltimore was going to test monitoring of traffic speeds using (presumably generic) cellphones. This article [ntoctalks.com] , although somewhat dated, reports initial results and also notes that the state of Virginia is doing the same thing.

Re:No live data? (1)

kabz (770151) | more than 6 years ago | (#22283204)

The exact type of data that the article talks about is available Houston TranStar [houstontranstar.org] .
Click on a segment of Beltway 8 and you get a Roadway speed and travel time popup.
Within that box is a link to a live speed chart that shows current speed versus yearly average.

Re:No live data? (3, Interesting)

funwithBSD (245349) | more than 6 years ago | (#22282514)

I wonder.

I lost my cellphone this weekend, and I asked my provider: "Well, can't you track it with the built in GPS and tell me where I left it?"

Guess the answer.

So how do you get the data off if is not easily accessible by the provider?

(I entertain the possibility that they don't want to do that so I have to replace the phone)

Re:No live data? (1, Insightful)

zippthorne (748122) | more than 6 years ago | (#22283914)

How would the GPS tell you it's under the couch and not in the drawer next to the couch? The accuracy of a phone-sized GPS is not particularly good.

Re:No live data? (2, Insightful)

toddestan (632714) | more than 6 years ago | (#22284874)

It could tell you if it was left at work, at home, or at a friend's house, and so forth. It would be atleast a start, if you have no idea where you left it.

Re:No live data? (1)

gad_zuki! (70830) | more than 6 years ago | (#22284494)

Well GPS has pretty severe limitations. Its in no way 'god's eye' It doesnt work indoors because of signal issues. You need to get x amount of satellites before you get a fix. If the phone is off nothing is going to work.

Worse, Assisted GPS just kinda figures out the last few cell towers you talked to and gets a fix with a huge radius.

Generally a phone that is on and is left out in the open can be traced to some degree, but if your phone company told you 'its in a 3 block radius of this spot' then its not going to do you any good, unless you can think "Oh wait, I went to the starbucks in that neighborhood, maybe I left it there!
They cant tell you "Its in your couch, dummy."

Lastly, they may not allow their CS reps to access this data. I believe in the US by law it can only be gotten with a warrant or after a E911 session has started. They do have other methods of calculating whereabouts, but these also are probably need-to-know so level 1 support cant fool around with them.

Re:No live data? (1)

funwithBSD (245349) | more than 6 years ago | (#22294246)

Well, in my case it would have helped. Did I leave it at the airport? In the rental car? in the car of the person who picked us up and took us to the rental place? (Where it showed up on Sunday, btw) Or at the TGI-Fridays where the wedding rehersal dinner took place? Or at the flea market where it has been rechipped and being sold?

Even saying: "It is in your house, dummy" would help.

Here is the the thing: it is smart enough to tell me about movie theater times to a one block radius as it picks the closest theater and lists it first.

Obviously, the phone knows, or it could not do that. It has an email interface, have it mail my address listed in my account and let me figure out the co-ords. How hard is that? (retorical question. It might be hard, or it might be: we never thought of that)

Re:No live data? (2, Insightful)

buravirgil (137856) | more than 6 years ago | (#22282528)

Reactively re-routing will alleviate congestion, but as the number of users approaches 50%, this strategy diminishes in its return. Only a minority can benefit from reaction to a majority. Early adapters, People-In-A Hurry-with-the-Money, would experience benefit while the congestion, overall, is lowered...so I figure this plan has great appeal-- bureaucrats can insist on its necessity and their monied constituency can avoid the vulgate. Smarter routing Vs. Wider roads...

Re:No live data? (2, Insightful)

CastrTroy (595695) | more than 6 years ago | (#22283248)

Meh. Less people driving would probably be an equally good solution. More people carpooling or using public transportation would work a lot better. A good public transit system can get rid of a lot of cars on the road, and clear up a lot of traffic. The problem with most US cities, is that their public transportation services are atrocious.

Re:No live data? (1)

Fuji Kitakyusho (847520) | more than 6 years ago | (#22282726)

I concur that this will happen, but I question the efficacy. Any technology which serves to decrease traffic congestion (by real-time re-routing or other means) by simply moving traffic to less clogged arteries is merely delaying the inevitable problem of critical traffic density. Sure, you make the system as efficient as possible by utilizing all routes to their capacity, but in doing so you remove the impetus to get vehicles off the streets. Such a situation is only temporary - the result is a decrease in major artery congestion at the expense of increased overall traffic density in the larger area, which will once again reach critical mass and be just as large a problem as before, only now all of the secondary routes are clogged as well. This is like sweeping dirt under the rug - you're not fooling anybody. The only responsible way to reduce traffic congestion is a combination of incentives to get vehicles off the streets, and effective civil planning which places residents in close proximity to their places of employment, educational institutions and services.

Re:No live data? (1)

PPH (736903) | more than 6 years ago | (#22282922)

We have some real time data available today in certain metropolitan areas. In
Seattle [wa.gov] , for example, this is already available for local freeways on the web and in various
other [trafficgauge.com] formats. Data is also collected for smaller roads, but is currently not made available to the public. That will change.


The problem I can see with the MIT solution (centrally calculated 'optimum' routes) is that the availability of better routes might be made available based upon a drivers willingness to pay. Much like the 'Lexus Lanes' in California, rich folks will be steered onto relatively empty routes while po' people will be packed onto crowded, less desirable routes. Certain routes and shortcuts through politicall $ensitive neighborhoods may be kept clear by diverting traffic elsewhere.


I'd rather plan my routes locally.

Re:No live data? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22284612)

Some GPS units already have this feature in California. They get real-time traffic data from a Sigalert [sigalert.com] XM broadcast.

Re:No live data? (1)

lhorn (528432) | more than 6 years ago | (#22289948)

Well, a GPS use power all the time,
but in a car this is negligible. IF the data is anonymized
I MIGHT let somebody install a free GPS tracker in my car.

As for GPS-on-a-phone? My phone uses power mostly when
involved in a call. One SMS a minute is a lot of power.
Will I be compensated for the data transmitted by MY phone
using MY power, or am I expected to just charge the thing
more often and pay for the service in addition? I am not
sure I like this "smartphone" concept...

here's an idea (3, Interesting)

ImTheDarkcyde (759406) | more than 6 years ago | (#22282428)

Eliminate green arrows from 12am-5am! As an overnight worker I can not tell you how many times I've had to sit at a red light twice because the sensor didn't want to trigger for just one car - and I know the one time I decide to go on a red arrow there is going to be a cop right around the corner.

Re:here's an idea (1)

ImTheDarkcyde (759406) | more than 6 years ago | (#22282448)

damn slashdots lack of an edit system! I meant to say "get rid of RED arrows"

Although I probably wouldn't have put red in all caps.

Re:here's an idea (1)

BitZtream (692029) | more than 6 years ago | (#22282524)

So backup and roll forward again to trigger it.

Or in some cases, straddle both the lanes that are red.

I too have had the crappy night job and been stuck at many red lights that 'did not sense' my car. All you have to do is figure out the way to get it to detect you, or multiple cars if thats what its looking for.

In most states there are also exceptions that allow you to run a malfunctioning red light, might want to check up on those to see if these lights you're having problems with are considered malfunctioning.

Re:here's an idea (1)

zcat_NZ (267672) | more than 6 years ago | (#22283654)

Don't go so far forward..?

I'm not sure how the American system works, but over here there's double-white lines at each set of lights. If you stop behind the lines like you're supposed to, your car is right over the sensor and the light will go green. If you stop halfway over the line (like almost everyone does) the sensor can't see you any more and you have to wait until there's another car behind you. The nighttime cycle stays green for the major road and red for everyone else until it detects a car stopped over the sensor, so if you stop past the sensor at 3am you'll be waiting forever.

http://xkcd.com/277/ [xkcd.com]

Re:here's an idea (1)

Geoffrey.landis (926948) | more than 6 years ago | (#22282548)

Yes, and that's doubly annoying for bicyclists and motorcyclists, who don't trip the sensor at all, so they have to go through a red light if they want to move, or else wait all night.

A better use of cell phones for traffic jam mitigation would be to have every one of the electronic gadgets that regulates traffic (like those "press this to get a walk signal" buttons, too) have a little sign with a number on it to call when it doesn't work...

Re:here's an idea (1)

urcreepyneighbor (1171755) | more than 6 years ago | (#22282564)

Well, the next time you're pulled over, flash your tits to the nice officer. If you're a woman, you'll probably get off with a warning. If you're a man, he'll let you go... because you're nuts... and scary. Helps if you've got a beard, too. Either way, it works!

Re:here's an idea (1)

Yetihehe (971185) | more than 6 years ago | (#22282576)

In some countries when there is very small traffic (i.e. night), lights just blink orange.

Re:here's an idea (1)

DustyShadow (691635) | more than 6 years ago | (#22282830)

Many cities in the U.S. do this. Two that come to mind are Tallahassee, FL and Cleveland, OH.

Re:here's an idea (1)

mechsoph (716782) | more than 6 years ago | (#22283004)

Some states let motorcycle [bikernewsonline.com] riders run red lights after waiting for a while.

Re:here's an idea (1)

glitch23 (557124) | more than 6 years ago | (#22283208)

I've never seen red arrows before. I've seen yellow ones though. Isn't that a traffic oxymoron? Arrows mean go and red means stop. At least you have a car though. Sometimes when I'm out late on my motorcycle it won't trigger the lights sometimes even though I was told by a cop once that it should be plenty heavy enough to trigger the magnets in the road. But as someone else suggested, you can try triggering the light again by backing up and then going forward again. It would be nice if there was an indicator that doing that actually worked other than just the traffic light itself changing which for all we know could just be coincidence.

Re:here's an idea (1)

Dun Malg (230075) | more than 6 years ago | (#22283306)

I've never seen red arrows before. I've seen yellow ones though. Isn't that a traffic oxymoron? Arrows mean go and red means stop.
No, an arrow only indicates direction. A red left arrow is designed to work in conjunction with a general green, essentially saying "LEFT TURN LANE must wait for green arrow, even though thru traffic can go".

Re:here's an idea (1)

symbolic (11752) | more than 6 years ago | (#22284116)

Where I live it's the other way - I regularly have to turn left at a busy intersection. It has a double lane for left turns, so that ought to be some indication as to the volume of traffic. At random times the green arrow lasts only TWO SECONDS, barely enough time for two cars. Meanwhile, the people needing to turn left fill up the available space in the two lanes, and spill over into the regular traffic flow, completely messing that up.

The other issue I have is light timing in general. I swear to god in some areas of the city they let a group of chimps loose on the traffic control system. How can you possibly justify timing that has EVERY light in a straight line turning red just in time for your arrival? It's an absurd waste of time, gas, patience, etc.

Re:here's an idea (1)

HartDev (1155203) | more than 6 years ago | (#22287040)

But then you can tell the cop all about the computer software that runs those lights...haha

Re:here's an idea (1)

nick.ian.k (987094) | more than 6 years ago | (#22289354)

As an overnight worker I can not tell you how many times I've had to sit at a red light twice because the sensor didn't want to trigger for just one car - and I know the one time I decide to go on a red arrow there is going to be a cop right around the corner.

So call the appropriate office of your local government and complain until they adjust the sensitivity of the induction loop(s) at each problem intersection. In my experience as a transportation-oriented bicyclist (very subject to bad sensor settings), explaining that the current settings indirectly encourage dangerous and law-breaking behavior will get you results; bitching about the inconvenience of the wait will tend to get you ignored.

Re:here's an idea (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22303550)

Right turn on red + U-turn... And possibly another right on red. That usually works, provided U-turns are allowed.

I wrote about this idea last year it's about time (2, Informative)

FromTheAir (938543) | more than 6 years ago | (#22282504)

It is about time we applied techonolgy to solve the worlds problems. What if all the business leaders coordinated to shift their employee arrival and departure times slightly so as to create a well orchestrated movement of workers? With a little funding I could build a system to coordinate the daily rush hours. The system would take into account departure points and destinations, the course and various elements on the course, and perhaps the best course, preferences and people would select a travel spot. Even better all the cars can communicate with each other, knowing their drivers intended destination an artificial intelligence could coordinate suggesting the best time to move into the middle or left lane, sending some cars down an alternate route to relieve some congestion which in the end results in everyone getting home quickly which is the incentive to participate. How many billions of gallons of gasoline could be saved if we simply knew the most energy efficient route especially when driving in unfamiliar territory? Far more money would be saved than the cost of the system and the benefits would be extraordinary.

Re:I wrote about this idea last year it's about ti (1)

celle (906675) | more than 6 years ago | (#22282708)

If employers would shifted start times a little we wouldn't need any kind of system. Stop the bullshit sales pitch to create work for yourself. How about employers keeping only workers around for the physically dependent work and sending the rest with the worker home (especially information shufflers,ah the variety) for most of the week instead, that way they could babysit their kids instead of dumping them on the public schools they abhor so much. Just think of how much money and gas could be saved if you could work from home and didn't have to run the kids around and only went in 2 days a week(maybe). Let's not talk about risking both you and your kids lives for bean counting and senseless on-time games. The internet is large enough, do you're work and educate your kids at home.

Re:I wrote about this idea last year it's about ti (1)

FromTheAir (938543) | more than 6 years ago | (#22282996)

You make some good points, one of them is called telecommuting and yes I have written about that. The problem is intelligence and wisdom is not being applied to the current systems to create efficiency because there are those that favor unnecessary profitable consumption. This was part of something I wrote a year ago, I have plenty of work right now, obviously MIT picked up on it they are on the distribution list. Which is part of the plan, as well as keeping the technology in the public domain and engineering big brother out of the system.

Linux just a buzzword now? (1, Insightful)

denzacar (181829) | more than 6 years ago | (#22282512)

Reading the summary and article can't but wonder - what if it didn't run Linux but something else? Would it still be news worthy?

Recently I've been noticing this trend of news about "stuff" doing "things" they were designed to do and the punch line being - it runs Linux.
Now... I know its a time honored tradition at /. to ask if it runs Linux, but really - who cares? '90s are long gone. Linux is a common thing these days.
Also... If it works - it works. Does my GPS or stereo run on Linux? Who cares? It works.

If this keeps up I am guessing its only days before local mobile-phone connoisseur (that's idiot in English) informs me of the fact that his brand new communication device has "A Linux" and that its battery runs on kernels.

Re:Linux just a buzzword now? (1)

T-Bone-T (1048702) | more than 6 years ago | (#22282632)

I came here to say that, only I couldn't figure out how to say it. Well done.

Re:Linux just a buzzword now? (1)

Yetihehe (971185) | more than 6 years ago | (#22282684)

Also... If it works - it works. Does my GPS or stereo run on Linux? Who cares? It works.
I care. You are clearly not geek or nerd. You don't care HOW your gadgets work. What are you doing on slashdot if you aren't interested in what is preented here? (It's not like "You are not slashdotter, go away", i'm really interested why do you post on slashdot). Some readers of slashdot LIKE what is presented here, but you say: it doesn't interest ME, so it's not interesting. And TFA is clearly on topic with slashdot (because it mentions linux), if everyone has your way, what will remain from slashdot? Digg?

Re:Linux just a buzzword now? (1)

denzacar (181829) | more than 6 years ago | (#22282972)

You are clearly not geek or nerd. You don't care HOW your gadgets work. What are you doing on slashdot if you aren't interested in what is preented here?
Now... The preferred response to such a statement+question would be to waive my /. ID number in your face and say something like "You don't have the permission to address me yet, young one."
But I guess I never did pick that up, so..

Usually, when I want to see how gadget works I get a screwdriver.
In this case - I read the (T)FA.
Which explains that it uses GPS and WiFi technology in combination with SQL-based application and some fine algorithms.
Only reasons they used Linux is - driver support and the fact that their developers are more used to it than to TinyOS.

So in this case... With developers-developers-developers and driver support - it could just as well run on Vista.
Platform it runs on is just the desk you put it on. Gadget is the application + the tech it uses.
Both are mentioned in the TFA, but the Linux bit got into the headline.

Why? Because Linux is a bigger buzzword to the /. crowd and also more and more to the non-geek crowd.

And TFA is clearly on topic with slashdot (because it mentions linux), if everyone has your way, what will remain from slashdot?
It mentions Linux, despite it being irrelevant to the way and why it works.
I guess saying "MIT Researchers Fight Gridlock with SQL and/or GPS" is not as good and "Linux succeeds where TinyOS fails" is a bit flame-boyant?
Both being more relevant to the TFA than Linux.

Re:Linux just a buzzword now? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22282718)

Funny, insightful, and true! The Linux community (of which I consider myself a part) at large seems to be reaching and wanting a pat on the head for everything. "But this app/distro/widget works!"

Re:Linux just a buzzword now? (1)

phreakincool (975248) | more than 6 years ago | (#22282782)

Dave, is that you?

Re:Linux just a buzzword now? (1)

argiedot (1035754) | more than 6 years ago | (#22282810)

FTA:

"We made a conscious decision to move to Linux because TinyOS was not as easy to work with," says Madden. "With Linux, there are also a huge number of people developing device drivers, and our graduate students already know how to develop with it."
The article explicitly mentions that there was an advantage to the switch, that's why the mention. I disagree that the /. headline should have had it, because the headline just sounds funny this way. Like it's some epic battle that MIT researchers are waging against Gridlock with Linux as their weapon, no wait, I changed my mind - I like it this way.

Re:Linux just a buzzword now? (1)

denzacar (181829) | more than 6 years ago | (#22283054)

Yet neither title or summary bother to mention that.
And its not very explicit if its mentioned in only two lines of, somewhere towards the bottom of the text.

Seeing Linux in the headline makes one wonder - "If they didn't switch from TinyOS, what would happen? Would the story ever make it to /.?".
Or is BSD and TinyOs just doomed by not having enough Xs in the name?
You know... like detergents.

Re:Linux just a buzzword now? (1)

argiedot (1035754) | more than 6 years ago | (#22289314)

I think it unlikely that such a story (with BSD) would make it to /. unless, of course, there's an equivalent to LinuxDevices.com which has news on as many new gadgets that use Linux as possible. Is there a website that promotes devices that use either of those systems? It's likely that whoever submitted the story just took the headline off the article. The article naturally had Linux in its name because that's why it's listed on LinuxDevices.com, it's the fact that it runs Linux that's interesting to them.

I think we disagree on the meaning of explicit :) but atleast I got a laugh out of that last line of yours. Detergents ha ha.

Orange box (1)

CaptainPatent (1087643) | more than 6 years ago | (#22282542)

The current focus of the project is in developing algorithms that run on top of the portal application
So is the goal of this automotive research to drive their car into the blue hole and come out the orange one? That would reduce a lot of traffic!

density, GPS units, and stupid traffic lights (5, Interesting)

SuperBanana (662181) | more than 6 years ago | (#22282570)

Problems currently exacerbating traffic in Boston:

Density. There are simply too many cars for the roads. Public transit is partly to blame; it's gotten better and more convenient (the Charlie Card was a major improvement- people can board busses *really* fast now, and I'm seeing fewer and fewer here-is-what-I-found-in-my-change-jar types), but the T still has miles to go in terms of reliability, routes, and just plain cleanliness.

GPS units (and Yahoo/Mapquest/Google maps) which go for the shortest/fastest route, not the *best* route or route with the most 'bandwidth'. For example, it's technically shorter to cut *through* longwood medical area, but it's much faster to go around it- even though there are more traffic lights, they're all in your favor.

Stupid traffic lights. There's a major intersection near me where, despite the complexity of the intersection (five streets), it's not wired with pads to tell how many cars are where. One car on a tiny side-street fucks up traffic on roads which are classified as arterial (y'know, the ones you can't park on during a snow emergency.) Boston and surrounding cities have hundreds of such intersections- but you'll only find the "smart" ones where rich people live.

Re:density, GPS units, and stupid traffic lights (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22286506)

>(y'know, the ones you can't park on during a snow emergency.)

This is one of the things I always find funny in the US. They get less snow than I do (Ontario, Canada) and yet we have no parking during snow emergency signs on the streets. Here, we just let people park and it's their business to figure out how to get their cars off the street at night (most places here [not all] do have rules not allowing people to park overnight in the winter so plows can plow more easily). We just got ~24 cm of snow where I am, and they plowed the major roads even though there were some cars parked on them. They'll have fun with shovels getting their cars out of the snowbank covering them, but that's their problem! :D

And on that note, most of the "minor" residential roads remain unplowed. My car (no, it's not an SUV, just a lowly corolla) with factory all-seasons made it to work and back no problem. In 7 years it's been stuck one time (previous landlord was very bad at bothering to plow the lot), 10 minutes with a shovel solved that issue.

I just can't figure it out, I guess, is all I'm saying.

Re:density, GPS units, and stupid traffic lights (1)

Sapwatso (461933) | more than 6 years ago | (#22288280)

In Boston, parking overnight is allowed on almost every street, in general, though in many neighborhoods one has to have a resident parking permit to park on the street at all. Even so, some of the more densely populated areas have so many more cars than spaces, so finding a spot several blocks away from where you want to go can still be considered "lucky". The lanes also tend to be small by US standards. As a result, this is what happens on the streets where parking is still permitted during a snow-storm:
  • the plows can not clear as large a traffic lane as they otherwise would, and the streets become less passable
  • the plowed in person digs out the space, and when they leave place a chair or similar in the space to "claim the spot". [boston.com]
  • due to the spots that did not get plowed back to the curb or shoveled out between cars, there wind up being less spots available, and those that are available are difficult to get close to the curb in, so traffic is impeded further.

So they do take people parking on the arterials during a snow emergency seriously.

Re:density, GPS units, and stupid traffic lights (1)

ralph.corderoy (178991) | more than 6 years ago | (#22319760)

Do you have any roundabouts in Boston?

Won't help my commute much ... (1)

ScrewMaster (602015) | more than 6 years ago | (#22282582)

I have pretty much only ONE way to get to work, about twenty-five miles of expressway.

Re:Won't help my commute much ... (1)

BUL2294 (1081735) | more than 6 years ago | (#22282694)

Agreed. What's the point of studying gridlock in an area that has 1) have no alternatives (i.e. getting from the Edens & Lake-Cook to downtown Chicago), 2) all of the alternatives are just as gridlocked (Midtown Manhattan or London, UK)??? Sure, companies and employees are using more flex-time but soon those times will be just as gridlocked...

Frankly, it's time for cities to put together some sort of urban & suburban planning--and those WILL involve more lanes of highway, additional roadways, public transportation, and eminent domain. Of course the environmentalists will complain bitterly about more roads but we might actually save fuel by reducing congestion...

R speed! (1)

ale_ryu (1102077) | more than 6 years ago | (#22282620)

This device brought to my mind the concept of R speed from the HitchHiker's Guide to the galaxy:

R is a velocity measure, defined as a reasonable speed of travel that is consistent with health, mental wellbeing and not being more than say five minutes late. It is therefore clearly an almost infinitely variable figure according to circumstances, since the first two factors vary not only with speed taken as an absolute, but also with awareness of the third factor. Unless handled with tranquility this equation can result in considerable stress, ulcers and even death.

This won't help in the long term. (1)

stomv (80392) | more than 6 years ago | (#22282744)

Want to use linux to reduce gridlock? Harness it to improve telecommuting, encourage bicycling or walking, cheapen mass transit, or [somehow!] use it to alter zoning laws to encourage more mixed use space that results in fewer people having to drive to work in the first place.

In most ways, increasing road capacity by scheduling/information isn't much different than increasing capacity by adding a lane. It's great for a while, but then we see traffic again. More capacity invites more cars. Maximizing "efficient" use of roadways makes traffic jams that much worse when there is an accident because the system has got more vehicles in it.

Making it more convenient/cheaper to drive a car will always result in more cars on the road, not fewer.

Re:This won't help in the long term. (1)

FooAtWFU (699187) | more than 6 years ago | (#22282838)

As long as you're building capacity, though, shouldn't you try to optimize your network to be as effectively used as possible?

Making it more convenient/cheaper to drive a car will always result in more cars on the road, not fewer.
Having more people in an area will result in more cars on the road. In many areas not struggling with their own success, and in which public transportation availability is very poor and limited, making it convenient and cheaper to drive a car just makes it more convenient/cheaper to live life. So, the SF Bay Area won't see the end of their woes with this, but you might have better luck in, say, Greensboro, NC.

Re:This won't help in the long term. (1)

stomv (80392) | more than 6 years ago | (#22282914)

Having more people in an area will result in more cars on the road.

See Manhattan Island for counterargument. Once you get a high enough population density -- especially with mixed zoning -- cars just aren't needed. People walk to the grocery store [or eat out]. They take mass transit to/fro work. Once you get that critical mass, the number of cars per capita, and perhaps even the aggregate number of cars, can decrease.

Making changes to society to encourage auto alternatives will have a greater influence in, say, Greensboro than in SF Bay where they've already got fairly good transit.

Re:This won't help in the long term. (1)

FooAtWFU (699187) | more than 6 years ago | (#22283126)

Having more people in an area will result in more cars on the road.

See Manhattan Island for counterargument. Once you get a high enough population density -- especially with mixed zoning -- cars just aren't needed. People walk to the grocery store [or eat out]. They take mass transit to/fro work. Once you get that critical mass, the number of cars per capita, and perhaps even the aggregate number of cars, can decrease.

Making changes to society to encourage auto alternatives will have a greater influence in, say, Greensboro than in SF Bay where they've already got fairly good transit.
The point about Manhattan is true. However, in Greensboro, you can easily find an average one-bedroom apartment for about $500/mo. In places like San Francisco (and presumably Manhattan), you can find a slightly-small one-bedroom apartment for closer to $1500/mo. (Like mine. Actually, I could have gone a little more suburban and less public-transit-y/more car-y for $1300ish, but I didn't.) I'm not sure that most people in Greensboro would appreciate that sort of price differential very much, Public Transport and corner groceries and spiffy eateries available or otherwise.

(Also, some people enjoy having a yard. Lawns. grass. gardens! nice pretty leafy greeny stuff. Kids love 'em. Check 'em out sometime.)

Re:This won't help in the long term. (1)

Dun Malg (230075) | more than 6 years ago | (#22283772)

Once you get a high enough population density -- especially with mixed zoning -- cars just aren't needed. People walk to the grocery store [or eat out]. They take mass transit to/fro work. Once you get that critical mass, the number of cars per capita, and perhaps even the aggregate number of cars, can decrease.
People whose only experience with large cities consists of old cities, like New York, which reached "high enough population density" more than 100 years ago don't understand the nature of the problem. The only reason New York is hospitable to mass transit is that it was built essentially as a pedestrian city. In the 19th and 18th centuries, neighborhoods required shopping within walking distance, as keeping a horse within the city was something that "regular folks" couldn't really afford. Fast forward to the early 20th century. Any city which saw its population explosion since the automobile was built with a completely different layout. Take Los Angles, for example. As Steve Martin's character in LA Story said, "Some of these buildings are almost 20 years old!" In Los Angeles, the city of the automobile age, expansion happened out rather than up. The major streets where the businesses cluster (zoning) are frequently a half mile apart, and just getting to a major street often isn't even half the battle. Supermarkets are miles apart. Install a subway under the major streets? Which ones? There are major streets every .25-.5 mile for thirty miles in every direction! The current solution is to throw a lot of buses at it, but the bus system is only adequate to get the latino housekeepers from East LA to their jobs in the affluent areas in Beverly Hills/Bel Air/Brentwood/Santa Monica. Everyone else drives. Most new cities are similar. Where's the new Wal-Mart? eight miles out, at the edge of town, on the highway, right next to the Home Depot. Where's the new houses? In a huge sprawling tract of prefabs, on the other edge of town, with no shopping anywhere nearby.

Making changes to society to encourage auto alternatives will have a greater influence in, say, Greensboro than in SF Bay where they've already got fairly good transit.
Making changes to society? That's a pretty nebulous plan, and one you might find difficult to impose upon people in the US. That's a "centrally planned economy" sort of thing. The only place that really worked in the 20th century was the old Soviet Union. They built really good mass transit systems in the major cities, but certainly no one was going to object.

Consider then (1)

stomv (80392) | more than 6 years ago | (#22284944)

Washington DC. Their subway system was built about 40ish years ago, and 100 years ago Washington DC was a swamp with a few Senators. Sure, that's a special case too, but all cities are special cases. Your point about city planning 100 years ago is a fair one, but I suspect that the problem is that nobody is willing to invest in permanent mass transit without the density, and you just can't get the density without the mass transit.

That's what I mean about making changes to society. You don't have to force people's hand, but you can change the rules. You can build subways, even if they're underutilized at first. You can changing zoning, allowing for mixed use, no setbacks, smaller [or no] parking lots, etc. You can resist the demands to continue to expand the highways into the cities, instead investing that money in making it easier [and cheaper] for people to live in the city.

I do think that federal, state, and local action can make higher density living more attractive, and that doing so is essential to a sustainable existence.

P.S. Front lawns? I've got a 100ish acre front lawn... it's a park. I don't have to mow it, but I get to use it any time I want!

Traffic reports on local radio (1)

Tim Ward (514198) | more than 6 years ago | (#22282848)

I've always found traffic reports on local radio to work well. It goes like this:

(1) Local radio says "there's a jam at such-and-such".

(2) I adjust my route in order to go directly through such-and-such.

(3) I get a clear run because by the time I get there the original problem has cleared, and everybody else has avoided the place having heard about it on the radio.

Hmmmm (1)

meatspray (59961) | more than 6 years ago | (#22282854)

So when the major routes are too congested, it'll start telling all the people to take a back road, thus immediately congesting that "less traveled" back route.

I dunna think this is gonna work.

Traffic speed is less a factor of number of cars on a stretch of road, more of number of cars trying to make a decision. (change lanes, exit, enter)

Think automated traffic cameras at merge areas, ticket people who get out of line, race up and cut back in line. Automated systems fire directed sound when you're less than 2 carlengths from the next guy.

Neat idea but... (2, Insightful)

blacklabelsk8er (839023) | more than 6 years ago | (#22282868)

I think the EasyWiFi technology that they had to develop in order to get this to work is actually the cooler aspect of this project, especially since its compatible with normal WiFi hotspots.

I could see it becoming a handy addition to any Wifi setup for a mobile device.

I have the solution (1)

heffrey (229704) | more than 6 years ago | (#22283986)

It's called the bicycle

Viewsat receivers? (1)

xlrc (1232490) | more than 6 years ago | (#22284710)

Hello I am looking to purchase a Viewsat [totalfta.com] FTA receiver. Does anyone know anything about them? Also, can you recommend a good retailer to purchase one? I have been looking at this for a while but have to admit I'm kind of lost.

I ran some calculation on my OS X Box (1)

LaskoVortex (1153471) | more than 6 years ago | (#22285234)

And they revealed that the way to fight traffic congestion is by taking the bus or living closer to your work. I'm going to toss the piece of shit because that wasn't what I wanted to hear.

Gridlock vs Grimlock (1)

Sodki (621717) | more than 6 years ago | (#22286278)

How many of you read that as "MIT Researchers Fight Grimlock with Linux"? That would be so cool...

How is this actually Linux related? (1)

LostMyBeaver (1226054) | more than 6 years ago | (#22288652)

I mean seriously, once upon a time... way back in late ninety something, if a device shipped with linux at its based, the presence of Linux on the device was as important as the application of the device itself. In modern times, pretty much everything imaginable runs Linux, so these days, having to say "QNX Device" or "Vxworks device" is more interesting since it might show a shift away from Linux.

I feel it really takes away from the merits of the researchers that have developed the extensive applications on top of Linux to make the heading anything about Linux.

As an after thought, why not also point out that they used GCC or Perl or even the libraries they used. Forget the fact that the device actually solves a problem and focus on the tools used to make it. The function isn't important... is it?
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