Frustrated drivers in traffic jam

Big data takes on the traffic jam

Transportation officials who have been relying on consumer surveys, road-side counters and automated recorders to gauge traffic flow can now tap into truly big data to help with urban planning and transit investments.

Inrix, a firm specializing in vehicle and traffic data, is using its crowdsourced traffic network and built-in two-way vehicle connectivity to help with urban planning and transit investment. The new platform, Inrix Insights, aims to help government transportation officials reduce congestion, improve emergency evacuation and safely plan for heavy freight movement by tapping into real-time GPS data leveraged from a growing network that now includes some 250 million vehicles and devices.  The Inrix Insights platform features two services: Insights Trips and Insights Volume.

Trips is a data-as-a-service application for understanding population movement from origin to destination and points in between. GPS data is collected from hundreds of resources and millions of vehicles worldwide, including 2.5 million trips per day (about a million in the U.S.), according to Inrix’s Rich Schuman. This information can be filtered by region, state, metropolitan area, days, months, certain time periods and timestamps, as well as separated by freight and non-freight data. Analyses through Trips can be used for transit route planning, city and county zoning, and records can also be downloaded by agency workers for conducting more specific, independent research.

Volume, the global population movement service, tracks how many vehicles and what types of vehicles (passenger or freight) are passing a location at a given day of week, time of day and side of the road. Volume provides insight into how many vehicles typically pass a location by time of day, day of week at a location as well as actual vehicle counts on a specific day, time and side of the road. Together, Volume provides historical changes in actual and typical (“normal”) congestion, speed and time in traffic patterns.

The new services give agencies a more scalable, cost-effective and immediate way to predict, plan and prioritize investment in roads and transit across their entire transportation network infrastructure, the company said.

Inrix uses trip times and vehicle counts from pre-processed data starting January 2014 up until yesterday. Data is also pulled from license agreements with fleet and auto companies using GPS in their vehicles, and from consumer data and incident reports from mobile devices through a downloadable application, Inrix Traffic. Together, real-time traffic coverage and historical records are combined in the Insights roadway analytics.

Access to this kind of information could make a huge difference for government planners.

“Connectivity and big data could really change the ways we plan our transportation systems and eventually manage our transportation systems,” said Don Hunt Inrix’s public sector senior advisor.

The product can also help with roadway tolling, tolling adjustments and trend-watching. Now, before-and-after studies can be conducted by engineers and technicians within agencies to make operational decisions, as opposed to having to involve a highly technical staff for simple tasks like map zoning, distribution analysis and day ranges.  

There are plenty of ways the government sector can leverage the Inrix traffic data. “I really want to encourage users to collaborate and work with Inrix to see what kind of use-cases we can really start to make out of this data,” Hunt said.

About the Author

Amanda Ziadeh is a former reporter/producer for GCN.


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