Monday, April 25, 2005

CNN.com - High-tech solution to highway congestion -

CNN.com - High-tech solution to highway congestion - Apr 25, 2005

TROY, New York (AP) -- Picking up doughnuts on the way to work recently, George List slid back into the driver's seat and heard a voice from the cup holder suggest an alternate route.

The car wasn't talking, exactly. The voice came from a handheld computer nestled in the holder that links his car to 200 other vehicles in the area. Data from all the vehicles -- where they are, how quickly they move -- is being used to create snapshots of area traffic patterns.

The system had detected a bottleneck ahead and quickly calculated a faster route.

"I said, 'Oh, that's interesting, it changed its mind when I was doing something else,"' he said.

List obeyed the machine.

He later saw the traffic jam -- at a distance, from another road.

List, director of Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute's Center for Infrastructure and Transportation Studies, co-heads a federally funded project examining a potential high-tech solution to highway congestion.

Traffic is tracked through global positioning system (GPS) devices in cars that are connected wirelessly. Drivers participating in the pilot project essentially act as highway probes, receiving continual feedback from in-car computers intoning commands like "Just ahead, turn right."

"They're benefiting from each other being eyes and ears in the network," List said.

The project is one of many "smart highway" initiatives, which rely on information from technology such as traffic sensors and roadside cameras. This experimental system, with its automatic updates, would be a bit smarter.

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