Can an app predict future traffic jams?

New Jersey plans to give drivers advanced notice of pending bottlenecks

Motorists in the country’s metropolitan areas can get real-time and near-real time traffic updates from any number of sources. Beginning next year, drivers in New Jersey will get future-time updates from the New Jersey Turnpike Authority.

The Traffic Prediction Tool, expected to go live by February, will use message signs, e-mail and Web alerts to warn drivers of pending traffic jams on the Garden State Parkway and the New Jersey Turnpike, Larry Higgs reported for

The tool won’t be making predictions far into the future — “We’re looking at forecasting five, 10 and 15 minutes down the road," Brian Gorman, the authority’s director of technology, told — but the warnings could give drivers enough time to find alternate routes.

The systems uses an algorithm to make predictions based on road conditions and historical traffic patters, Russell Nichols reported in Government Technology. It reportedly has an accuracy rate of 93 percent.

“During peak travel times, we find that for every minute of significant congestion, we can create a mile of backup on the roadway,” Gorman told Nichols. “This technology allows us to post the information 10 minutes sooner and give motorists the opportunity to make appropriate decisions.”

Similar systems are in use in Singapore and Sweden, but this would be the first in the United States.

Of course, on certain roadways around cities, traffic is bad during rush hour a good 93 percent of the time anyway. It doesn’t take a crystal ball, or a complex algorithm, to figure it out. But as any rush-hour motorist knows, there’s bad, really bad, and Cross Bronx Expressway bad. Or Tokyo bad. Or, apparently, Nashville bad (who knew?).

An app that gives drivers an earlier warning might just be helpful. And if New Jersey’s effort works, other cities or states might follow suit.

About the Author

Kevin McCaney is a former editor of Defense Systems and GCN.

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Reader Comments

Tue, Oct 5, 2010 Mary Wells Foxboro, MA

Great article. On the topic of traffic, read how All Traffic Solutions' recently unveiled the next-generation of traffic safety signs – web-based “smart signs” that provide law enforcement departments with the tools to capture and report on key traffic data (using Axeda Platform):

Mon, Oct 4, 2010 Jeffrey A. Williams Frisco Texas

there is no reason why such an App can't reasonably predict traffic patterns on any road if the inputs are good. What might be questionable is the cost of such an App vs the return in savings to motorists and gasoline usage as well as potential mitigating of safety risks.

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