Jambusters eye cellphones

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12 June, 2002

Jambusters eye cellphones

BBC News

Delays ahead: Could your mobile phone help?

A system that spots when drivers with mobile phones are stuck in a traffic jam could soon be used to help motorists dodge queues.
Network providers will be able to detect when congestion is building up on roads and motorways with the new program, which is being tested in the UK and Sweden.



Within five minutes of being switched on the system is able to generate traffic information for over 90% of roads in the network

Joe Dixon, Applied Generics  
It relies on the fact that, when switched on, cellphones are in regular communication with the nearest base station, giving a precise location for the phone.

As the user moves around, their phone sends signals to other base stations, allowing the network's computer to log their route.

By monitoring the activity of hundreds of users, the system can build up a picture of where delays are occurring.

It also detects peaks in the number of calls being made, as drivers reach for their mobile phones to say they will be late.

Applied Generics, which is based near Edinburgh, says the program will provide more accurate traffic information than that which is currently available.

'High quality'

It is accurate enough to help emergency services locate traffic incidents, according to a report in New Scientist magazine.

Joe Dixon of Applied Generics told BBC News Online: "We believe that nobody else has got as high a quality of traffic information.

"Within five minutes of being switched on the system is able to generate traffic information for over 90% of roads in the network."

Mr Dixon said he hoped the system would be up and working in Europe in the next few months and in the UK by next year.

Network providers will be able to sell the information on to subscribers or to motoring organisations.

Reservations

But the Automobile Association says it has reservations about the scheme.

According to spokesperson Louisa Dean, similar systems have been trialled in the United States but have never been launched.

She said it was useful for telling how many cars were travelling at a certain speed but could not give information about such things as accidents or roadworks.

"It doesn't give information as to why there is a problem," she told BBC News Online.

Such knowledge is important to drivers, she added.
 

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