It seems like cell phones connect us with everybody. Engineers have come up with something else your cell phone can do. We’ll listen in. Today, on Engineering Works!
It’s happened to everybody who’s ever driven in a city. You look ahead and you can see the traffic starting to thicken. What if there was a way to find out if that traffic ahead was just a slowdown or the beginning of gridlock? City planners and computer engineers have come up with an idea that someday may do just that.
An ambitious experiment on the crowded streets of Rome is tying together signals from cell phones with GPS devices on buses and taxis to see where vehicles and pedestrians are. Sophisticated signal processing methods help the researchers tell the difference between a cell phone signal from someone stuck in traffic and someone else just wandering down the sidewalk.
City planners are using the information to learn more about how Rome works. Traffic engineers use it to study how traffic flows in the city, especially during special events like the city’s annual White Nights festival or celebrations after the World Cup.
So far, the plots of these signals are just projected on big-screen maps in laboratories, but the engineers say that eventually you could get real-time updates on traffic around you so you could bypass congested areas.
Our traffic is beginning to slow down, so we’ll get off the street. See you next time.