Crowdsourcing, Holiday Travel, Road Hazards, Technology, Traffic Congestion

Technology and crowdsourcing alleviate traffic headaches

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Navigation devices + human collaboration + real-time information = the formula for helping drivers share relevant and timely commute-related information

Are you looking for the cheapest gas in town? Need to reroute your travel because of heavy construction or other road hazards? Where can you recharge your electric car? Are there car-sharing or bike-sharing opportunities in your neighborhood? Technology and social networking enable commuters to share relevant and timely commute-related information and answer these perplexing questions with a swipe of a button.

Technology also plays an important role in the smart cities movement toward reducing vehicle emissions, using services and acting in new intelligent ways in transportation and communications to reduce travel time of vehicles and prevents traffic jams. OpenStreetMap is a European project that adds traffic lights, sensors, routes and vehicle flows emphasizing local knowledge.

 

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Smart Mobility in Cities with Evolutionary Algorithms Source: Daniel Stolfi, University of Malaga (Spain)

The “Red Swarm – Smart Mobility in Cities” study presents an approach to regulating traffic by using an on-line system controlled by an Evolutionary Algorithm. The study proposes to use computational spots with WiFi connectivity located at traffic lights (the Red Swarm), which are used to suggest alternative individual routes to vehicles.

 

Back in the U.S., researchers are studying the impact looking for a parking spot has on greenhouse gas emissions and fuel usage. A study by Donald Shoup, Distinguished Professor of  Urban Planning at UCLA, reported that drivers looking for parking spaces rack up more mileage each year than a person normally needs for a long-distance trip. According to the study, drivers in search of a parking spot around the UCLA (California) campus clocked around 950,000 travel miles, 730 tons of greenhouse gas emissions, and 47,000 gallons of gas. The numbers are extraordinary, and particularly when you extrapolate out to consider the impact in a big city. The author asserts that if each parking space had a sensor, to provide drivers with a virtual picture of all the available spaces, emissions would be reduced, congestion would be eased as drivers could go straight to the free spots, and local authorities would have real-time data to help them utilize space better in the future.

In 2012, the New Cities Foundation released the results of its study,  “Connected Commuting”, to help cities better understand how social networking among commuters can enhance the overall commuting experience and improve traffic management. The study was conducted in the city of San Jose, California, in partnership with Ericsson, the City of San Jose’s Department of Transportation and the University of California’s Mobile Millennium team from the Center for Information Technology Research in the Interest of Society (CITRIS) utilizing two of the most popular commuter smartphone applications, Waze and Roadify.   Connected Commuting attempted to determine how real-time information sharing between commuters could influence the development of new technologies, policies and other innovations that improve commuting in metropolitan areas throughout the world.

The daily commute is one of the most painful parts of urban life. This is true in most cities around the world, rich and poor, old and new. Connected Community 

Urban traffic and commuting difficulties are problems that plague not only the individual driver, but adversely affect an entire country’s infrastructure. The study found that more than $100 billion is lost in the U.S. due to wasted fuel, carbon emissions and lost opportunity costs each year. It also reported that delays in the cost commuters an average of 34 hours a year.  That’s time you don’t have to spend in traffic.

Drunk Driving, DUI/DWI/OWI/OWAI, Field Sobriety Tests, Technology

Laser technology pegs drunk drivers

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Laser Technology designed to check a driver’s blood-alcohol level from afar

Gotta love technology. Researchers at the Military University of Technology in Poland have come up with a laser-based device that can measure blood-alcohol levels through a car window. It is the same technology, referred to as standoff detection, the military uses to find weapons, hazardous materials and explosives and where lasers and optical techniques are of critical importance for their ability to passively and actively probe threats near and far. Standoff detection can take place at distances from several centimeters up to a kilometer.

How does it work? According to an article in Smithsonian.com:

A laser emitter and receiver sit on one side of the road, while a mirror sits on the other. As a car passes, the emitter sends a laser beam through the vehicle’s window and bounces it off the mirror. The beam is sent at a wavelength that can be absorbed by any alcohol vapor—so, any power loss equates to the presence of booze in the car. If there is no alcohol, there is no absorption. The higher the concentration of the alcohol inside the car, the lower the power measured, because the beam is absorbed by the alcohol.

This laser technology could make checkpoints a thing of the past. But first, there are a few legal hurdles to overcome, including securing a ruling on whether the technology can meet the reasonable doubt test officers must have to pull over a suspected drunk driver. Researchers of the technology must also fix challenging bugs in the system, for example the device giving a false alarm if only the passenger is drunk, and failing to give a reading if the window is open.