When your phone tells you to stop texting and drive

When your phone tells you to stop texting and drive

While cellphone use by drivers is cited as a major cause of distracted driving, Walnut Creek, Calif., has found a way to use mobile devices to keep its drivers focused on traffic. And as a bonus, the city gets access to anonymized traffic flow information, giving officials a better understanding of infrastructure needs and traffic light system performance.

Working with Connected Signals, a traffic information provider, Walnut Creek has been able to offer residents a free app that reminds them to put down the phone and drive when the stoplight turns green. The EnLighten app, which can be downloaded for both Android and iPhone phones, will alert drivers that the red light is about to change, drawing their attention back to the road.

EnLighten uses information about current state and timing of traffic lights, time of day, and historical behavior to determine how long it expects it to be before the light changes and how sure it is about the prediction, the company said on its website. If the prediction is strong enough, it is given to the user. When variations in timing plans or other factors limit the prediction’s accuracy, no alerts will be sounded.

The Connected Signals software is installed in a city’s traffic control center where it accesses information on traffic signals and sensors. That data is combined with map and speed-limit information to model stoplight behavior and predict future performance.

The technology is connected to all 100 traffic lights in Walnut Creek.

Connected Signals, the Contra Costa Transportation Authority, Walnut Creek and the Metropolitan Transportation Commission all worked together to bring the app to the city, and officials hope the tool will help the flow of traffic, increase fuel efficiency and make drivers more aware while the road.

“We understand distracted driving, and were hoping to use technology to reduce that problem instead of making it worse,” Matt Ginsberg, the chief executive of Connected Signals told the San Francisco Chronicle. “The impact is on fuel economy, driver safety and driver stress -- and we want to improve all those things.”

The app is also being used in Portland and Eugene, Ore.; Garland, Texas; Salt Lake City, Provo and Ogden, Utah; Greater Las Vegas, Nev.; and Arcadia, Calif.

About the Author

Derek Major is a former reporter for GCN.


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