In the year 2000 there weren’t many options for observing traffic. Either a system was intended to look at the flow of traffic by examining the progress in real time from a helicopter or high vantage point and report to radio and television stations and make mathematical projections, or systems were left that sensed the speed and frequency of moving traffic. But since that time, the systems have gotten more advanced. And not IBM is announcing a computer system that will not only track the progress of traffic, but even predict the future.
With busy schedules, places to be, and longer commutes to get into the city, many in the suburbs are effected intensely by the sudden crowding on the highways during rush hours. And to make matters worse, there are always accidents, breakdowns, and other road blocks that threaten to grind the roadways down to a halt altogether. If there’s one feeling of desperation many people feel they can relate to when it comes to traffic it’s being in a complete gridlock and knowing they were supposed to be somewhere fifteen minutes ago. But now IBM is announcing a project they have undertaken with the New Jersey Turnpike Authority that will make roadways run smoother and more efficiently. The so called Smart Transportation initiative promises to use technology to solve this problem. The program actually predicts traffic patterns long before the cars are anywhere near the area, with incredible success at predicting road congestion up to an hour before it even takes place. This is long before many commuters are even on the road.
The system promises to make announcements to commuters, forecasting through traditional means such as radio and television, but can also be used in GPS navigation systems. Even when few cars are visible on the road, the system is said to predict the patterns of vehicles by taking a collection of information from GPS systems (which are present in many phones and vehicles), events taking place nearby, weather patterns, and other systems. This information is fed through a complex program and the results are eerily accurate. This “psychic” prediction is not part of a massive supercomputer either. Though it may seem only a computer capable of eventually becoming self aware and declaring war on the human race would be capable of such complex calculations, IBM announces that its system will be able to run on a standard computer system. Of course the closer it comes to “crunch time” the more accurate the system will be. Within 20 minutes a fair estimation becomes a prediction and within 10 minutes it is even more accurate.
The secret, according to programmers, is that the new system will be more elastic and nimble than traditional projection software. In time perhaps this will be translated over to other concepts that can make predictions about the weather or even the stock market with a fair amount of accuracy. The system is expected to start changing highway efficiency in some areas later this year, but if it works well it could possibly be used nationwide.