Over the July 4th holiday weekend in the U.S., Verizon Wireless teamed with Autodesk Location Services to offer free traffic reports to motorists via a short messaging service (SMS).The service provided information on traffic incidents and major delays along a specified route.So, being a Verizon customer, I decided to test the service on July 5th along a route that I intended to drive in a few days.The route, from Huntsville, Alabama to the coast of New Jersey is approximately 950 miles.The route was primarily interstate highways, as you can see in Figure 1, and intersected the major cities of Knoxville, Washington D.C., Baltimore, and Philadelphia; a good cross section of areas where congestion is likely to occur.
The text messaging set up asked the user to input the origin and the destination of the route and the time window during which you would like to receive text messages.The user could specify a second time window for the reverse journey, such as one would do for commuting to and from work.
The results.I received frequent alerts, and as expected, the areas of highest probable congestion experienced major delays.As you can see in Figure 2, I received an alert for slow traffic on the New Jersey Turnpike northbound (NB) at interchange (INTG) with US Route 206 where delays could last 45 minutes.In Figure 3, you can see the alert for an accident that would cause a 15 minute delay.An expected time for when the accident would be cleared was also provided in the text message.In total, I received about 15 alerts during the period in which I requested the service.
According to the press release issued by Autodesk Location Services:
"This is the first in a series of value-added services Autodesk Location Services is powering for Verizon Wireless," said Joe Astroth, executive vice president, Autodesk Location Services."The new Verizon Wireless TXT Traffic Alert Service will help Verizon Wireless customers make alternative plans by letting them know about difficult traffic conditions in advance, giving them more time for fun over the long weekend."The press release also stated the cost of the service after the holiday weekend."Verizon Wireless customers can pay as they go for TXT Traffic Alerts, which are just $0.02 for each message received, or select from several bundled plans, including $2.99 per month for 100 messages, $4.99 per month for 250 messages and $9.99 per month for 1,000 messages sent or received."
"Traffic alerts are a much-anticipated addition to our popular lineup of TXT Alerts, which include weather, sports scores, news, and stock information," said Jim Straight, vice president of wireless Internet and multimedia services for Verizon Wireless."Our own research, as well as industry analyst reports - such as IDC's analysis published this March - has repeatedly found traffic information to be among the most highly desired by wireless subscribers."
Certainly, these are baby steps for location-based services in the United States.And although my phone is equipped with a chip set to broadcast my location, there was no feature offered for the Verizon service to bound my search for accidents within a specific geographic radius.Eventually, we'll have the ability to have our handheld devices alert us to traffic and weather incidents only when we enter a given geographic zone as per the service to which we subscribe.I think we would accept for now the ability to merely know about the incident or to know exactly where to find the information.For example, many state departments of transportation are creating website, such as this one in Minnesota for the Twin Cities area (See Figure 4 below), where road projects and traffic road impedances can be broadcast.This is a start for the U.S.Maps of traffic conditions downloaded to a PDA for cell phone have been available for a while, but I think this is one of the first services in the U.S.which has offered near real-time alerts along a specific route.
Figure 2 Figure 3