Bringing Digital Mapping to Life: Real-Time, Dynamic Roadway Information

By Richard F. Pearlman

The increase in navigation usage is bringing about an increased demand for relevant travel information. JD Power and Associates 2002 Navigation Usage and Satisfaction Study found that the overwhelming majority of navigation users surveyed definitely want real-time travel information, i.e., real-time traffic and road construction information, a detour capability to avoid traffic jams, etc.

While on-board digital maps were once perceived as a luxury item, the evolution of more advanced, affordable technology is enabling navigation applications in vehicles and on personal devices to become valuable tools that help individuals manage their daily lives and companies operate more efficiently.

Accurate routing from point A to point B is essential.However, users of navigation, telematics and location-based services are now demanding more than just accurate routes to their destinations. They want to reach their destinations utilizing the most direct route, with minimal hassle, in the least amount of time. This requires real-time information. Routing applications that respond dynamically to real-world driving situations are satisfying drivers in a way that matters most by monitoring road conditions and dynamically altering routes on the fly, ensuring that each destination is reached in the fastest and safest possible way.

While accuracy and complete coverage will never cease to be critical components of digital maps, dynamic content that incorporates real-world driving conditions like traffic, segment-specific travel speed and weather conditions in real-time, make driving directions and navigation services more compelling and truly indispensable tools.

Dynamic Data: How Will You Use It?
A recent U.S.Department of Transportation Federal Highway Administration study reported the cost of congestion nationwide at $78 billion in 1999, representing the cost of 4.5 billion person hours of extra travel time and $6.8 billion gallons of fuel wasted while sitting in traffic.Increasing traffic congestion is becoming more costly to individuals and threatens to slow the nation's economic growth in the years ahead due to increased shipping costs and higher costs to motorists because of wasted time and fuel while stuck in traffic. Key to virtually every congestion mitigation strategy is real-time information about what is happening on the roadway system, including information on weather, incidents, speed, volume, sudden changes in construction plans.

More than half of all congestion is non-recurring-caused by crashes, disabled vehicles, adverse weather, work zones, special events and other temporary disruptions to the highway transportation system. By combining multiple sources of dynamic content and disseminating it through a single source, alternate travel routes can be calculated dynamically, creating an incredibly personal and practical application.

Much more than just local area traffic and weather reports that are available through general media, detailed information specific to location can now be delivered to drivers in real-time.Turn-by-turn directions, dependable rerouting, and reliable drive time estimates can all be dynamically created depending on real-world driving situations.

One of the biggest challenges for the navigation, telematics and location-based services markets is how to provide information that users will benefit from every day. While navigation functionality is important, most consumers know how to get from their homes to their offices, or from their children's soccer games to the grocery store.What they don't know is whether or not the freeway on the way home from their office will be backed up because of an accident, or whether the thunderstorm that hit has flooded the off-ramp they normally use and consequently, which exit they should take.

Beyond the benefits of saving time, fuel expenses and frustration for Americans battling traffic jams on a daily basis, the benefits for enterprises with large mobile workforces are clear. For instance, fleet operators can improve delivery times and reduce operating costs by disseminating timely, accurate travel information to drivers. Drivers carrying cargo that must be delivered within a specific time frame find increasing benefits from leveraging real-time information. If a section of the interstate on which a driver is traveling has been closed, real-time routing applications will direct the driver around the incident and recalculate the route, helping to ensure that shipments are delivered on schedule, or that estimated time of arrival information is reported accurately. Real-time travel information can also warn of adverse road conditions that could impact the safety of the vehicle on that particular route.

Dynamic content linked to digital navigation maps proves its value through the immediate timesaving and safety benefits delivered. Additionally, providing a single data set for preprocessed and dynamic information reduces the cost to application developers and service providers to deploy both types of location data, which ultimately provides a more compelling service.

Dynamic Data: Where Will You See It Next?
As in-vehicle navigation systems and consumer applications such as location-enabled phones and personal digital assistants (PDAs) begin to offer more relevant information, the widespread use of dynamic content will become increasingly important. This content expands users mobile experiences in practical and creative ways such as enhanced safety service, turn-by-turn directions, navigation and traffic assistance, E911 services and other lifestyle services.

Recent reports indicate that wireless subscribers are willing to pay for real-time traffic updates and driving direction services.High-quality location-based services will enhance customer satisfaction by providing a dependable, highly accurate and personalized customer experience. Users of location-enabled phones, wireless PDAs and navigation and telematics systems will be able to lookup addresses, perform proximity searches to find the location of the nearest ATM, restaurant, convenience store, etc., then view a map of the location and receive instructions on the best travel route to reach their destination.

By building location-sensitive content into mobile devices, services can deliver much of the functionality of a vehicle tracking application at a fraction of the cost, making it a compelling solution for many more enterprise and consumer users.

Dynamic traveler information is only in its nascent stages and the potential applications leveraging it abound. There is tremendous room for wireless carriers and in-vehicle navigation and telematics services providers to offer users solutions that will make their lives and jobs easier.

Published Saturday, July 26th, 2003

Written by Richard F. Pearlman

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