GPS traffic data to the rescue along I-95 corridor

One of the most frustrating and crammed stretches of highway for drivers in the US runs between New Jersey and North Carolina on Interstate 95, and GPS-based real-time traffic technology is being called to the rescue starting this summer.

The I-95 Corridor Coalition, a coalition of 16 states on the eastern seaboard, recently awarded a four-year, US$5 million contract to Inrix Inc. in Kirkland., Wash., to take traffic data provided by Inrix and use it to update police, traffic engineers and motorists with traffic conditions along 2,500 miles of I-95 and nearby roadways.

The data will be used to update travel time on roadway alert signs, 511 systems, incident management systems used by first responders, Internet-based traveler information systems and other systems, an Inrix spokeswoman said Wednesday.

The secret to Inrix's technology is that it fuses together location data gathered via GPS from 750,000 vehicles nationwide pinged at least daily, alongside data from road sensors, cameras and first-hand reports, said the Inrix spokeswoman, Michele LargA©, in an interview Wednesday. Truck fleets, taxis and delivery vehicles have given their permission to provide the location information to Inrix, she said.

The coalition, with the help of the University of Maryland, requested bids for the project last year, noting that about a dozen companies provide traffic information based on a similar GPS-based approach.

Large said the number of bidders for the project was "crowded, because it was a hot project."

Inrix has partnerships with several companies, including TeleNav, TomTom International BV, Garmin, and the traffic network of Clear Channel Communications that provide GPS information to consumers via in-car devices and cell phones. So far, Inrix has not used cell tower locations to triangulate locations, but is researching that emerging technology, Large said.

The first phase of the project focuses on the corridor from New Jersey to North Carolina, but may extend to major roads from Maine to Florida, covering 12,000 miles of highway, Inrix said. The New Jersey to North Carolina stretch is well known as a heavily congested highway especially during the summer when vacationers travel from crowded urban areas such as New York to beaches along the coast of North Carolina and nearby areas.

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