Traffic Info by Phone & Palm


Oregon’s TripCheck website and their new 511 telephone service has gotten record use during the holidays and recent snow storms.

The FCC designated “511” in 2001 as the single travel information phone number for states and local jurisdictions across the country. Like 911 phone numbers, the non-emergency number is free and provides useful travel information. Oregon doubled the number of lines when it added the 511 number in November. Washington and Nevada also are in the system.

ODOT chief spokesman Patrick Cooney said there have been a couple of problems with the expanded phone system, which now has 216 lines. “Do you set up a system for normal loads or peak loads?” he asked. “When everybody calls at once, we do not have the resources to handle peak loads.”

“This is a good test for the system, and we will continue to work out the bugs,” he said.

TripCheck features Roadway Incident Maps, showing you where roadway incidents have occurred and an estimate of the delays involved as well as 120 Road Cams around the state to help locate trouble spots and keep an eye on traffic conditions. By clicking on a variety of icons, displayed as snowflakes, cameras, weather stations and general information, potential travelers can get a good idea of what to expect. Even with the increased usage of late, TripCheck.com is carrying the load very well, said Oregon officials.

The Washington State Department of Transportation’s Web site has not been so lucky. The WSDOT website has slowed to a crawl. January 3, WSDOT saw a record-breaking 7.6 million page views, beating the previous one-day record of 6.8 million page views set on November 19, 2003.

Real-time traffic services like Seattle’s Traffic Gauge (right), help drivers find faster routes.

Travelers looking for new gadgets might check out Hitachi’s new G1000TM Multimedia Communicator with Pharos’ Ostia Smart Navigator, the first Web-based service to combine GPS navigation, real-time traffic and dynamic points-of-interest lookup. Smart Navigator can wirelessly access hundreds of thousands of points of interest (POIs) hosted on Pharos’ Smart Navigator server. Addresses, phone numbers and Web sites for restaurants, hotels, gas stations, automated teller machines, banks, hospitals, airports and any number of other destinations are available (for $5.95 per month).

Current traffic information is linked to highway sensor data provided by the Department of Transportation, delivering up-to-the-minute traffic conditions right to your Smartphone handset. Real-time traffic information is available from:

Greg Retkowski writes; There’s a California traffic service called Know Traffic which sends traffic notifications to cellphones via text messages customized for the subscriber’s routes.

A 5.9 GHz ITS corridor might also use WiFi hotspots or cellular data to suppliment information distribution. ITS Projects include Washington state’s Smarttrek.org, U/W’s ITS Research and Mitre’s ITS Reference show ITS at work. Real-time Transit Information Systems like U/W’s MyBus.org and Portland Streetcar have real-time map.

Portland State University’s ITS Lab also gets the fiber optic camera feed from ODOT, and plans to use video processing techniques to determine vehicle speed and status.

FM radio subcarriers can deliver road conditions to millions, all the time, everywhere. Clear Channel uses Ibiquity’s “HD Radio” which can also broadcast data. A business model utilizing a $99 hand-held traffic monitor (and messaging system), perhaps using Microsoft’s Spot technology, might use University or DOT generated real-time map coding.

ITS can monitor and manage traffic flow, reduce congestion, and provide alternate routes to travelers. The new 5.9 GHz service can beam traffic hazard information into a car, trigger collision avoidance mechanisms or allow drivers to pay a rental car bill on the fly. ITS extends the Wi-Fi revolution to your car,” said Paul Najarian, who has worked on the issue for the government-industry coalition.

Digital maps have replaced atlases and folded maps for many travelers. About 30 million people visit America Online Inc.’s MapQuest service every month along with other free online mapping services like Yahoo Maps, and Microsoft’s MapPoint. The falling price and improved accuracy of global positioning systems, which pinpoint locations using satellites, are speeding the adoption of in-vehicle navigation systems like OnStar.

XM Satellite Radio promises Instant Traffic & Weather in 15 metropolitan markets by March 1, 2004. The NAB is trying to stop it. SIRIUS also plans to integrate traffic information with weather service content, with content partners to be announced in the coming months. Satellite radio provider Sirius Satellite Radio on Wednesday said it expects to deliver up to four channels of video programming to TV screen equipped cars by mid-2005. Motia has a phased array antenna that can receive satellite delivered video on the move.

Visteon Voice Technology (left), is a voice activation system that recognizes hundreds of verbal commands. But all is not perfect in the world of voice control. A Thai finance minister became trapped in his car when the onboard computer of his BMW malfunctioned, shutting down the engine, locking all the doors and windows, and sealing him and his driver inside. A funny NPR story illustrates that voice command still has a few bugs.

Posted by Sam Churchill on .

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