MIT’s CarTel: Car Sensor Does Route Planning

Posted by Sam Churchill on



MIT’s CarTel, a distributed, mobile sensor network and telematics system, combines mapping WiFi access points in the Boston metro area with a Web site that shows all the trips made by a driver and provides interesting ways to visualize one’s trips, individually and collectively.

A small embedded computer, about the size of a cellphone, is placed in the glove box and links to sensors in the car. Unlike traditional automotive telematics systems that rely on cellular or satellite connectivity, CarTel uses wireless networks opportunistically. It uses a combination of WiFi, Bluetooth, and cellular connectivity, using whatever mode is available, but shields applications from the underlying details.

CarTel has been used for several applications, including:

  • FreeFlow: CarTel’s rich data set computes optimal routes at different times of day.
  • P2 (Pothole Patrol), a road surface monitoring system.
  • CafNet (“carry and forward network”) protocols that will allow cars to serve as data mules, delivering data between nodes that are otherwise not connected to one another. For example, these protocols could be used to deliver data from sensor networks deployed in the field to Internet servers without requiring anything other than short-range radio connectivity on the sensors (or at the sensor gateway node).
  • Fleet testbed, a 27-car CarTel deployment in the cars of a local limo company (PlanetTran) serves as the “vehicle” for much of their research.
  • Wi-Fi Monitoring, mapping the proliferation of 802.11 access points in the Boston metro area.

CarTel has placed sensor kits in each of the Cambridge-based fleet’s 25 vehicles. The kits, which cost about $450 each, contain global positioning devices and accelerometers. Every time a car travels over a road anomaly, for example, the accelerometer records the depth and width of the hole, sending the data to CarTel’s website with geographic coordinates when it passes a wireless access point.

Unlike other route-planning systems, “CarTel understands where traffic delays are and recommends routes to avoid them,” said CarTel Professor Samuel Madden.

Boston Globe and Physorg have more. Oops, it looks like Dailywireless wrote about CarTel about 6 months ago. Related Dailywireless stories include; Passive Cellular Tracking and Tracking Soldiers, Mapping Relief.

Posted by Sam Churchill on Friday, October 10th, 2008 at 7:59 am .

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