Tailoring data for drivers

Philadelphia and Pittsburgh recently joined the ranks of cities trying to improve their traffic management by improving their traffic data.

Mobility Technologies Inc. recently finished installing a network of sensors along the roads in the two cities that will provide the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation with a steady stream of traffic information.

The Digital Traffic Pulse network in Pittsburgh includes 112 sensors along 200 miles of roads, while the Philadelphia network has 120 sensors along 150 miles. These sensors—basically, solar-powered radar guns — constantly measure the volume and speed of traffic by shooting a perpendicular beam across up to eight lanes of traffic.

The sensors use wireless modems to transmit the data via the Internet to a central computer processing facility. There, it forms an aggregate picture that makes it possible to provide drivers with useful information — such as which roads to take and which to avoid.

"What we want to do is use the information from a citywide system of sensors and tell you what the good news is," said John Collins, vice president of intelligent transportation systems and telematics at Wayne, Pa.-based Mobility Technologies and former president of ITS America.

The traffic information is posted on Mobility Technologies' Web site (www.traffic.com). Company officials also hope to arrange deals to provide the information to other clients, including television and radio stations and even trucking dispatch centers.

Funding for the work was provided by the U.S. Department of Transportation under the terms of the Transportation Equity Act for the 21st Century, which supports development and testing of advanced transportation technology.

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