Urban areas across the world are growing at a fast speed and the road networks are just not able to handle the ever-increasing traffic. In the United States, a commuter spends around 38 hours per year stuck in traffic jams whereas in Germany a driver spends 65 hours per year burning an extra 40 litre of fuel every day, costing the economy between €100billion and €200 billion ($132-264 billion).
With an increasing number of people living in cities, traffic management is becoming a necessity in urban areas. Understanding how the city lives and breathes with reliable and timely traffic and navigation information will save an urban dweller’s time and money. It has been found that drivers who use traffic enabled navigation save 18% of their driving time.
Better, not bigger data
Capturing real-time data about traffic and roads can give key insights to drivers. By combining commercial and consumer probe data, fixed proprietary sensor network, event-based data collected from government sources, and billions of historical traffic records, congestion can be easily managed on roads.
But traffic on roads is also dependent on a host of other factors like weather, road conditions etc. For example, when delivering route information to drivers, one has to take into account factors like holiday patterns to accurately estimate arrival times and help drivers plan routes based on the shortest travel times. If an incident occurs on the way, the driver will immediately receive a pop-up informing them about options which they can take to move around the traffic.
Still it is not just the amount of data that matters, the quality and freshness of that data is equally important. For example, a probe by someone with a smartphone walking along a sidewalk is not relevant in understanding a city’s traffic pattern. As a result, a lot of emphasis is laid on collecting the most relevant and fresh data coming from moving vehicles to capture traffic in real time.
It’s all in the delivery
Another important aspect for good traffic management is delivery of relevant information. People can get the same quality of traffic information on their personal navigation devices, smartphones or on the Web.
All of this technology, however, doesn’t compromise the human element. Voice-guided navigation, for example, keeps the driver’s eyes on the road, as he is able to get an overview of the city’s roads in one glance with better visualisation of congestion on roads. With features like natural guidance, which use landmarks to navigate a route rather than street names, driving experiences are becoming intuitive.
Personalising all of these experiences so that over time they become far more relevant to a commuters daily life makes transportation even more enjoyable. Even though a commuter has memorised his way to office, traffic on that route changes every day depending on weather, time of year and time of day. Traffic information systems can analyse that route and send alerts to the commuters about an accident on their way and warn them to leave earlier or later to beat the congestion.
The public sector has long since realised the importance of traffic management in contributing to the wellbeing of society. Working with the US Federal Transportation Administration since 1998, Nokia provides traffic data services including installing, operating and maintaining more than 25,000 sensor networks, providing real-time and archived data, and dynamic messaging for digital highways signs for 27 markets.
This is a growing field and now includes a number of US state and local governments. Tools like Nokia”s HERE map content and traffic data has been used by state authorities such as Department of Transportation in Michigan since 2009. Real-time traffic data is today available state-wide on all major highways in the US and provides speed limit signs, green travel routes and flow data to show congestion.
Growing our footprint
In order to keep up with the growing urban environment, traffic providers need to collect and process more data than they are currently collecting, including a wide range of advanced in-car sensors providing information on weather and road conditions. Only by analysing this vast amount of data in real time, traffic providers will be able to offer the most accurate and predictive services.
A demand for such tools and data can be gauged from the fact that HERE currently offers traffic information for 77 countries and real-time traffic information in 34 countries for cars, personal navigation devices, smartphones, tablets and websites. It provides maps for 80% of cars with in-dash navigation and have 1.6 million km of roadway with real-time data. Every month 20 billion of these high quality real-time GPS probe points are being processed for traffic services. About 43% of the data is less than a minute old and 80% is less than 5 minutes old. To beat traffic, one does not just have to identify congestion, but provide solutions for drivers.