By Steve Hymon, Los Angeles Times Staff Writer
February 09, 2008
A fleet of 100 cars rolled onto a Bay Area interstate Friday to begin perfecting a tool that could one day transform the lives of commuters around the world.
With San Francisco Bay shimmering to the west, university students drove the cars all day back and forth along Interstate 880. Each was carrying a cellphone loaded with Global Positioning System software. And as they drove, it beamed back signals that researchers shaped into a real-time map of traffic speeds.
Of course, maps of freeway conditions already exist and are popular. Who doesn’t know about SigAlert.com or Google maps?
But in the ubiquitous cellphone, some researchers see a two-way device that can not only gather high-quality data on what’s happening on the road, but then deliver information to motorists on which route they should take to shave time from their travels. “Getting that information back to the drivers, that’s the Holy Grail — so drivers can make smart decisions about their commute,” said Thomas West, director of the at UC Berkeley, one of the backers of Friday’s experiment.