What a traffic information site might look like

Caution: Accident Ahead

Once information is detected from cell phones, it has to be disseminated to motorists. In order for drivers to be routed around traffic, they must be informed of how fast the traffic is flowing, if it's clogged or if there is an incident blocking traffic altogether. This is where the cell-phone service provider comes into the picture. The provider would send this information out to customers.

There are three ways to transmit information to motorists:

  • Collected information is fed into a large repository that can be accessed via a Web site. A map on the screen would show various roadways in green, yellow and red to indicate free-flowing traffic, slow traffic and clogged traffic, respectively.
  • Registered users, whose locations are known, are sent customized traffic reports based on the road and direction in which they are traveling. Systems will also advise users of alternate routes around congested areas.
  • Information is displayed on conventional electronic road signs.

By getting information to the customers more quickly, developers believe that commuters will have enough time to react to these warnings and find another way around the congested areas. This would be an advance compared to how information is released today, which is primarily through radio or television news reports. By the time the radio and TV report an incident, it's typically too late for most commuters to act on the information.

Cell phones and other digital devices are as commonplace as cars, so why not combine the two to solve the problem of congested highways? In the next few years, we will learn for ourselves whether these new technologies will make our commute to work easier or if our only hope is to find a way to stay home.

For more information on intelligent highways and related topics, check out the links on the next page.