Your Smartphone Might Save You from Getting into Traffic Jams

February 18, 2013, By Sanjeev Ramachandran

There has been a massive data collection that utilised the GPS facility in smartphones to monitor the commuting path of people in a particular Boston area. The study can be carried out at any geographical area and can help town planners to design roads that can easily help in mitigating traffic jams once and for all.

The methods are completely dynamic in nature and hence pretty much effective. In this work the researchers have validated a methodology that employs comprehensive mobile phone data to detect patterns of road usage and the origins of the drivers.

To study the distribution of travel demands over a day, they divided it into four periods and they accumulated the trips over the total observational period.


A trip is defined when the same mobile phone user is observed in two distinct zones within one hour (zones are defined by 892 towers’ service areas in the San Francisco Bay Area and by 750 census tracts in the Boston Area).

In the mobile phone data, a user’s location information is lost when he/she does not use his/her phone, but by defining the transient origin and destination with movements within one hour, the researchers can capture the distribution of travel demands.

Today, as cities are growing at an unparalleled pace, particularly in Asia, South America and Africa, the power of this purely technological modeling framework is its ability to dynamically capture the massive sources of daily road usage based solely on mobile phone data and road network data, both of which are readily available in most cities.

The researchers have succeeded in validating for the first time an efficient method to estimate road usage patterns at a large scale that has a low cost repeatability compared to conventional travel surveys, allowing them to make new discoveries in road usage patterns.

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