Cell phone tracking system reveals how traffic jams start

Smartphones have changed the way we drive, both by adding new distractions and by helping us get where we’re going with GPS-assisted directions and real-time information on traffic jams.

But what if smartphones could help eliminate some traffic jams, instead of just warning us when they exist? That’s the goal of a study using cell phone records and GPS data to track drivers’ movements and identify the sources of traffic.

The Boston Globe described the study today, noting that MIT and UC-Berkeley analyzed the cell phone records of 680,000 Boston-area commuters through call logs, “which identify the towers used to transmit calls,” allowing “the researchers to trace each individual’s commute, anonymously, from origin to destination.” This helped produce “one of the most detailed maps of urban traffic patterns ever constructed.”

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Ars Technica » Technology Lab

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