IBM driver tool predicts traffic jams

April 13, 2011 by Glenn Chapman
Heavy traffic is seen on a New Delhi highway. IBM is testing smartphone software designed to predict traffic jams and warn motorists before they even take to the roads.

IBM is testing smartphone software designed to predict traffic jams and warn motorists before they even take to the roads.

IBM said late Tuesday that its employees in the San Francisco and areas of Northern California have been testing technology that "will ultimately help drivers around the world" avoid fouled .

Those involved in the pilot project agree to have location-sensing capabilities in their smartphones automatically track where they drive and when, according to IBM Smarter Traveler program manager John Day.

The information is fed through the Internet to computers that identify patterns such as commutes to and from work.

Meanwhile, data collected from censors commonly used for online traffic maps is analyzed to determine conditions that usually lead to trouble.

For example, congestion at a certain off-ramp or bridge entrance may consistently lead to traffic backing up in another area.

The results are combined to form personalized predictions of when a motorist is apt to run into highway headaches.

"We wanted to take advantage of analytic tools to provide predictive capabilities; to get correlations with minor slowdowns and major ones that happen after that," Day told AFP.

"So you can run a query at any point for a journey and predict 35 or 40 minutes in advance what it will look like, then couple that with a personal approach for the individual traveler."

IBM researchers worked with California state highway authorities and a Mobile Millennium Team at the University of Berkeley, California, on the project.

The smartphone application lets people receive customized alerts warning of probable traffic trouble before they set out on commutes or other routine drives.

The service is powered by a "first-of-its-kind learning and predictive analytics tool" called the Traffic Prediction Tool (TPT) developed by IBM Research.

TPT continuously analyzes congestion data, commuter locations and expected travel start times throughout a metropolitan region that can affect commuters on highways, rail-lines and urban roads.

"The idea is to learn a traveler's habits, then run it on the predictive model to see what traffic they can expect," Day said.

"The objective was to make it much more personal and provide it to them just before they were about to leave."

IBM researchers envision integrating real-time data from bus or train systems into the equation so the service could advise people when it would be smarter to divert to public transit.

Privacy protections included obscuring start and end points of trips as well as letting people manage their travel data online.

The pilot project has been going on for about five months.

"The predictive capabilities are head and shoulders above what exists today," Day said. "Everything out there is showing you traffic as reported five or 10 minutes ago. Nobody does predictive."

While testing is in California, IBM is intent on building a system that can work around the world.

"Unlike existing traffic alert solutions, we're helping take the guesswork out of commuting," said Stefan Nusser of IBM Almaden Services Research.

Explore further: IBM, Texas Transportation Institute Collaborate on Intelligent Transportation

Related Stories

IBM offers glimpse into the future (w/ Video)

December 23, 2010

Air-powered batteries, 3-D cellphones that project holographs and personalized commutes are among the predictions of IBM scientists gazing into their crystal balls.

Simulations means 'smarter traffic decisions'

June 10, 2008

Kyoto University and IBM's Tokyo Research Laboratory have developed a system that can simulate urban transport situations encompassing millions of individual vehicles in complex traffic interactions. A simulation can predict, ...

Google Maps tracking traffic flow

August 26, 2009

Google has invited US motorists to share their progress -- or lack thereof -- with other drivers through the Internet giant's online mapping service linked to smart phones.

Study links gridlock to slow job growth

January 26, 2009

( -- Commuters well versed in the physical and psychological tolls of traffic congestion can now add an economic effect to the list. A new UC Irvine study found that places with sluggish commutes - usually an ...

Recommended for you

Microsoft aims at Apple with high-end PCs, 3D software

October 26, 2016

Microsoft launched a new consumer offensive Wednesday, unveiling a high-end computer that challenges the Apple iMac along with an updated Windows operating system that showcases three-dimensional content and "mixed reality."

Making it easier to collaborate on code

October 26, 2016

Git is an open-source system with a polarizing reputation among programmers. It's a powerful tool to help developers track changes to code, but many view it as prohibitively difficult to use.

Dutch unveil giant vacuum to clean outside air

October 25, 2016

Dutch inventors Tuesday unveiled what they called the world's first giant outside air vacuum cleaner—a large purifying system intended to filter out toxic tiny particles from the atmosphere surrounding the machine.


Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

5 / 5 (1) Apr 13, 2011
roadway censors? defintion 2 "any person who supervises the manners or morality of others" improved driving habits will certainly help. Or then, how about putting the phone in charge of the car? Just a reminder, fewer cars = less congestion.
not rated yet Apr 13, 2011
roadway censors?

I think it is a reference to the thousands of Indian traffic cops who manually count and report traffic at their junction. This could also be automated.

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.