Traffic Equalizer

So I'm one of those people who get stuck in traffic jams be it morning or evening. Moreover I'm a student who doesn't want to spend a fortune (which our dear telecom companies charge) for wireless data to get real time traffic information from Google Maps Traffic Layer, so I can take an alternate route or re-schedule my day.

But Google Maps Traffic heavily relies on people connected to google maps to share their speed, which is averaged for the region to determine traffic flow. This makes it less useful, specially in cities with less mobile internet users.

Another thing to notice is that most rush hour jams are unpredictable. A broken car/truck/bus during that peak hour, adds 15 minutes to my 1 hour journey. But there are always alternate routes and I can only guess or rely on good people who report traffic news to radio jockeys, to tell me which route is chocked today. But I seldom find this information useful and rarely for the region I wish to know about. So it's a guesswork after all and if it's my lucky day I may reach in half my usual time...

So I decided that maybe we can put in some cleaver plan to help solve this problem? And I came up for a plan for Delhi, India. I'm not sure how much it fits other cities, but guess people will comment and tell me. The plan not only helps people take the less congested alternate route, but also helps de-congest the already congested route, by diverting traffic away from it.

The idea involves putting up small devices(refereed here as traffic blobs) with camera capabilities facing the road traffic mostly in places with more likely occurrence of bigger jams. The cameras take photos at say 10 minutes intervals and via a GPRS connection transmit it to a central station. The central station collects data from all such traffics blobs around the city and analyses it for traffic density. The analyzed data, a simple 10 scale traffic density, is then send to two portals. One the online web based portal, from where it can be collected by people sitting at home, or with gprs on-the-go. The other, (this is the part which helps people), is the data is sent back to the camera devices, in simple text form- location code+traffic density. This data is then mass sent to all car-devices(these are essentially the user-end interface, open-source hardware?). The data is sent via cheap RF link with a range of about 500 meters, so one can get data from, a traffic blob little closer to home, about traffic, a little closer to work, and vice versa. Each traffic blob, can have two cameras, so monitor the both ways traffic, thus further reducing cost.

The idea not only helps the common man, it helps the administration of the city to better the traffic conditions, by having fairly accurate traffic data throughout the day. It also directly handles the pollution problem and that of reducing use of fossil fuels. So it can be taken as a green project.

Business model? - Sell the kits (try keeping them open source). Make the website service paid. Make the car receiving service paid, by adding some form of encryption to mass transmitted traffic.

Some additional points:

  • The security of the devices is a concern. But sticking them to high poles, like street lights can be thought of.
  • Although the idea is mainly meant for people with many optional routes to take, it can also be used to plan for the day, by people who have to forcefully take that one congested route. If traffic density seems high, leave early and likes.
  • The traffic blobs' frequency to take photos can be changed by central station to produce more accurate data, at the cost of more wireless data transmission on the GPRS network, which is expensive.
  • Privacy of users, who's car's images are taken to estimate traffic data can be preserved by having fully automated central station. This I feel is also preserved by the low quality cameras that can be used in the traffic blobs, so only boundaries of cars are visible, with no way of identifying persons' / cars. The system can also be switched off during VIP an VVIP movements.
Will work on some artistic visualizations and some technical block diagrams and upload soon.



Akshat said...

Although such systems are in their planning stages, mostly for the common wealth games, they hardy help the common man like me to take a different route...

Anonymous said...

Very inspiring I say :) how do u intend to make the stations automated? through image processing algorithms? i can also suggest one more add-on in it. In many cities, the surge of traffic also depends on the time of the day..I mean, during the morning time, the traffic from place X to place Y is huge while the congestion from place Y to X is very less, or vice versa. In such a case, we can also synchronize the traffic signals on these roads in such a way so as to increase the signal hold time for the lesser congested road, and decrease the red signal's time on the higher congested road.

In simple words,say, the red signal for a road going towards Connaught place in the morning will b less (since many people happen to rush towards downtown in the morning from suburbs) and vice versa in evening (ie when people return to their homes in the suburbs, from downtown)

Akshat said...

Dear Anonymous above ( I feel I should stop anonymous posts) :),

I remember once I visited Bombay and there was a system of co-ordinated or synchronized traffic lights, but in Delhi such things are not possible as number of straights roads like Bombay are less. And all roads are equally loaded, so giving one preference over other is a tricky thing.

Thanks for posting.