phone in car

Can smartphone data deliver better traffic stats?

The Federal Highway Administration is considering using passively collected data to help make sense of daily traffic volumes, including trip origins and destinations data as well as the percentage of travelers using a particular type of transportation.  

In a notice posted on FedBizOpps, FHWA said it is conducting a market research into technology that would use "non-traditionally available data" -- or data streaming from smartphones, GPS signals, vehicle transponders and tracking devices and other sources -- rather than sensors on roadways.

Access to validated data on the number of vehicles of different classes on the nation's roads could reduce costs and increase efficiencies for state and local transportation departments, FHWA said.  Passive collection of data would also reduce the risk to employees and contractors currently employed to set sensors in the road or conduct traffic counts.

The FHWA project would also include development of a technical guide for state and local highway agencies to use to evaluate such methods and data.

Earlier this year, the National Park Service floated a similar idea.  In a July request for information, NPS said it wanted to leverage location-based information from visitors' mobile devices to help develop long-range transportation and visitor use plans.

About the Author

Susan Miller is executive editor at GCN.

Over a career spent in tech media, Miller has worked in editorial, print production and online, starting on the copy desk at IDG’s ComputerWorld, moving to print production for Federal Computer Week and later helping launch websites and email newsletter delivery for FCW. After a turn at Virginia’s Center for Innovative Technology, where she worked to promote technology-based economic development, she rejoined what was to become 1105 Media in 2004, eventually managing content and production for all the company's government-focused websites. Miller shifted back to editorial in 2012, when she began working with GCN.

Miller has a BA from West Chester University and an MA in English from the University of Delaware.

Connect with Susan at smiller@gcn.com or @sjaymiller.

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