Traffic Jams & Predictive Navigation Services

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The long weekend in Vancouver finally dawned with some great weather and some not so great traffic jams. If you live in Vancouver you know that the short hop from Georgia Street onto the Lions Gate Bridge can be 3 minutes or a grueling 55-minute creep from Gastown to West Vancouver. I had the experience of wasting the precious Monday sun inside my car with my entire family as we inched forward to the bridge. It is always a crap shoot and once you get there it is very difficult to get yourself out – although I counted at least 12 cars ahead of me get out of queue by various illegal traffic gymnastics. A recipe for an accident and another ICBC claim.

As we idled, I moaned about not taking the Second Narrows route. Although the distance is double, we probably would have completed the road trip in 20 minutes. I, of all people who live downtown, should know to look up the traffic patterns on our iPad before we depart.

It is easy to figure out the shortest route between two points, but much more difficult to figure out the fastest. There are many traffic–data tool providers such as Navteq and smart phone apps such as Inrix Traffic. But these tools can be off and what looks like a 20-minute trip takes well over an hour. Other obstacles to successful navigation are road closures, natural disasters, traffic re-routing or just the fact you are a tourist.

But the future of predictive traffic routing is just around the corner. Creating this type of system requires historical and real-time traffic data. Well, that’s what is happening by osmosis (well almost). In the past year, traffic monitoring has begun using mobile phones. Nokia-owned Navteq tracks over 4 million phones, compiling speed and location information. The technology and outcome of this is mind boggling, but it can and will refine the process – like a permanent, real-time, on-the-scene traffic reporter. Traffic jams will always occur, but these systems can help to spread out the traffic over alternative routes. The future holds friendly for making more informed driving decisions when it comes to traveling. I am already happy thinking about quicker road trips, expelling less pollution and the decrease in road rage and car accidents.

Next time I hit the highway (so to speak) I will be tuning into one of many navigation services to plan my travel times and routes.

Thanks to a great article: Future Tech: A Car Smart Enough to Prevent Traffic Jams by David H Freedman. Read more technical information on the future of Nav systems.

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