Wednesday, June 1, 2011

New Traffic Assessment System Can Help Freight Truck Drivers And Private Motorists Alike

Disaster Prompts Action to Avoid Gridlock
Shipping News Feature

US – Sometimes the best things happen in the face of adversity, wars lead to scientific breakthroughs and disasters to better systems for helping people trapped in difficult situations. Just such a scenario arose when Hurricane Rita struck the Gulf Coast in 2005 and hundreds of thousands hit the highway simultaneously to escape the turmoil. It was this that led Houston TranStar, the Greater Houston Transportation and Emergency Management Center, to develop a sophisticated system which could be used by freight truck drivers and ordinary motorists alike in order to minimise the chaos.

Back in 2005 Rita led to a thirty mile plus tailback on I-45 from downtown Houston and people died due to the delays as they became stranded for many hours on the highway. The TranStar system has been awarded the "Most Innovative Use of Technology" endorsement by the Center for Digital Government and utilises real time traffic information from the highway, including digital images, which is then collated by TranStar and processed.

The information sources include Bluetooth equipment carried within the cabs and cars of passing drivers. Houston TranStar's AWAM (Anonymous Wireless Address matching) System detects the MAC addresses of these whether they be sited in GPS navigation systems, cell phones or other mobile devices and then compares their comparative times and positions as they traverse a route giving a picture of exactly how fast vehicles are travelling on average in a particular sector.

It is a little known fact that all Bluetooth enabled devices can be tracked by readers similar to those used by the AWAM system and to completely protect one’s privacy (although MAC addresses are in fact rendered anonymous by the technology) it is necessary to switch the devices discovery function off. The information in the region was formerly gathered by Toll Tag equipment, as mentioned in our article a few days ago, but the new method is much more efficient and means an up to date picture of traffic conditions can be disseminated almost instantly 24/7 using roadside signs, radio and TV and the colour coded TranStar traffic map which is available to any internet user. 

The TranStar project was put together with the Texas Transportation Institute, Texas Department of Transportation and the City of Houston and what is certain as we move into a new Hurricane season is that the chances of avoiding the gridlock which has occurred previously are considerably improved.

Photo:- I-45 from the air during the Hurricane Rita exodus.