January 30, 2015 00:22 UTC

Science & Technology

Navigation App Helps Predict Traffic Conditions

The first version of this app uses data from road sensors.

Traffic jam in New York City
Traffic jam in New York City

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  • A Navigation App That Helps Predict Traffic Conditions

From VOA Learning English, this is the Technology Report in Special English.
 
From New Delhi to Beijing, commuters spend a lot of time stuck in traffic. In the United States, Los Angeles and San Francisco tie for second place for having the worst traffic problems. Washington, D.C. is in first place with the worst traffic, according to the Texas A&M Transportation Institute.
 
In Los Angeles, drivers spend sixty-one hours every year stuck in traffic. These drivers know all too well how bad the traffic can be.
 
“It’s a prison of cars. There’s too many cars, you can’t move around a lot.”
 
“I get very frustrated. I try to listen to some music, maybe snap my fingers or something to try to pass the time.”
 
Professor Cyrus Shahabi also knows about traffic jams. He lives more than 65 kilometers from his office at the University of Southern California, in Los Angeles. He is always late even with the help of a navigation system.
 
He and PhD student Ugur Demiryurek decided to develop an app for that. The ClearPath app claims to do what other navigation systems cannot. Professor Shahabi says his program uses historical data to predict traffic conditions even before the driver leaves the house.
 
"What’s unique is that we utilize a lot of data that’s currently become available including traffic data, weather data, and we analyze that so that we can predict what’s going to happen in front of you when you leave home.”
 
ClearPath uses two and a half years worth of traffic data from 9,000 sensors on the roads of Los Angeles. It also collects information on accidents.
 
“Now you are driving and there’s an accident in front of you, but the accident is 20 minutes away. And you know from historical data that that accident would clear by the time you get there. We can take that into account and send you towards the accident because we think by the time you get there, there wouldn’t be any accident.”
 
Professor Shahabi says his system does more than just respond to current traffic conditions. With ClearPath, he says, a driver can enter what time he wants to leave on a specific time and date, and ClearPath will give the fastest route. It looks at the entire road network, including surface streets as well as highways, before the driver hits the road.
 
Ugur Demiryurek says they will launch the free ClearPath app for roads in Los Angeles in two months. In a year, he and Professor Shahabi hope to have ClearPath available nationwide and overseas once they can collect traffic data from other cities.
 
“I thought always that L.A. had the worst traffic, but now I know that Shanghai, Beijing, Seoul, Tokyo, believe it or not, Singapore, Hong Kong definitely are examples that can immediately utilize this.”
 
Professor Shahabi hopes to license this new technology to companies that already have navigation systems, such as Google and Apple.



 
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