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SAN FRANCISCO, USA – We wrote about a trial going on in the US back in September where mobile phones will be used to monitor traffic and help improve journey planning. Well now the project has kicked off on its next phase, with researchers from Berkeley and Nokia releasing free software later tonight.

The pilot program will remain limited for the moment, but researchers at Berkeley are hopeful it’ll be rolled out across the whole of the US in time.

In a story in the San Francisco Chronicle, Michael Cabanatuan said

“Because it uses cell phones, it could dramatically improve the
accuracy of driving time projections, and allow driving time estimates
on less-traveled roads, including surface streets and rural highways,
the researchers say.”

In a trial last February, 100 drivers were kitted out with N95s packing
software which relayed data including speed and location to a central
server. This then combined the data from each source to understand what
was happening with traffic.

The idea is to feed back into the device and if a meeting is planned,
inform the user that they might like to leave a little earlier, as the
route is blocked. That side of things is a way off yet though and for
now the focus is on rolling the system out to gather the data. The
initial trial was positive enough to warrant a second phase.

Every plan has its flaw though and the only issue I can see is the
drain that persistant use of GPS has on the device’s battery. That
said, if the device is being used in the car, it should really be in a
dock of some kind, which might help to allay that particular problem.

Nokia and researchers from Berkeley are working with the California
Transportation Authority (CalTrans) to get this system rolling. So, is
it a good idea? Discuss.

Read more about on the Nokia Research Centre

Photo by respres