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Cellphones to Monitor Highway Traffic 119

Roland Piquepaille writes "On February 8, 2008, about 100 UC Berkeley students will participate in the Mobile Century experiment, using GPS mobile phones as traffic sensors. During the whole day, these students carrying the GPS-equipped Nokia N95 will drive along a 10-mile stretch of I-880 between Hayward and Fremont, California. 'The phones will store the vehicles' speed and position information every 3 seconds. These measurements will be sent wirelessly to a server for real-time processing.' As more and more cellphones are GPS-equipped, the traffic engineering community, which currently monitors traffic using mostly fixed sensors such as cameras and loop detectors, is tempted to use our phones to get real-time information about traffic."
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Cellphones to Monitor Highway Traffic

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  • ... already [engadget.com] has it, the UK and Germany to follow.

    Wish those other countries could also follow up with Coffee Shops.

    • We already have it too: Press release [be-mobile.be] and Technology overview [be-mobile.be].
    • by wfberg ( 24378 ) on Sunday February 03, 2008 @07:06AM (#22281140)

      ... already has it, the UK and Germany to follow.

      The TomTom/Vodafone system doesn't use GPS coordinates being sent by mobiles, it only uses triangulation to work out where handsets are, and how fast they're moving. Highways are already equipped with detection loops every half mile or so, so this is mostly useful for smaller roads. It won't detect roads where cars are at a complete standstill though, if the phone isn't moving fast enough (e.g. less than, say, 4mph) it'll assume the phone's just in the pocket of someone who isn't in a car.
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by owlnation ( 858981 )

      the UK and Germany to follow
      Surprising really, that the UK isn't the first -- since it is already leading the World in surveillance technology and legislation that violates both privacy and basic human rights.
      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by Gordonjcp ( 186804 )
        I thought that was the US? In the UK, there aren't armed thugs with police badges randomly shooting people. That's what *I* call a violation of human rights.
        • Re: (Score:1, Troll)

          Uh, excuse me, those "thugs", as you call them, are American Heroes who put their lives on the line every single day to protect you from terrorists. As everyone knows, a terrorist kills indiscriminately, but an officer of the law occasionally makes a mistake whereby an "innocent" person will get clubbed to death. I quoted "innocent", because we all know everyone's guilt of SOMETHING, and so they got what they deserved, if not for the crime for which they deserved it. By denigrating their actions and call
        • No, it's not too different in the UK... the armed thugs with police badges randomly shoot brown people. I'd say Jean Charles de Menezes [wikipedia.org] had his right to an intact head violated [timesonline.co.uk] rather severely by the Metropolitan Police.
          • Re: (Score:1, Troll)

            by Gordonjcp ( 186804 )
            Yes, but in the US it happens all the time, with no legal recourse. It's perfectly legal for police in the US to shoot whoever they want for any reason. In the UK, by comparison, my civil liberties are "violated" by some minimum wage drone with nothing better to do than watch me stand on a busy street and scratch my arse.

            Hmm, let's see, some powerless nerd watching a million people per second walk past a fuzzy camera picture, or random murders written up as "self defence" by trigger-happy morons with a ba
        • by MacDork ( 560499 )

          In the UK, there aren't armed thugs with police badges randomly shooting people. That's what *I* call a violation of human rights.

          Excuse me? [wikipedia.org]

          • Yes, and they got in trouble for it. One every ten years or so. As opposed to the US, where it's something like fifty deaths per week.
            • by MacDork ( 560499 )
              If you read the link provided, you'll see that none of the officers involved in that execution style murder were charged due to "insufficient evidence" despite the fact that the driver of the train witnessed the event firsthand. Those murderers are still out there 'protecting' London. Sure, that's nothing compared to the FBI firebombing an entire city block, [wikipedia.org] killing 4 children, 7 adults, and leaving 240 people homeless... but, that doesn't make the tube shooting okay.
              • Of course it's not OK, but it's something that happened *once*. It's not happening several times a day, every day, across the entire country.
    • We are already doing this in the US as well. Guess the college students missed looking that up, but hey, college students often prove things that have already been proven. The data they collect is really stripped down.
    • by Whyskas ( 784767 )
      I didn't see a post covering this particular variant of what's going on so here's my take on it. I'm all for the testing and whatnot as I find it very interesting as well as probably the next step in our future, although, I don't think that the "higher-ups" should be able to "tap" into the information on our phone unless you and it were in an accident. As far as speed and driving the speed limit ... it's not so much that speed kills nor is it what really bothers me. What bothers me is the erratic way that s
  • While well intentioned, I hope these testers remember that measuring a system changes the system.
    • In...3....2....1....this will be abused by the police to prove you drove 80 mph for the 10 mile stretch instead of 55...
      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by jamesh ( 87723 )

        In...3....2....1....this will be abused by the police to prove you drove 80 mph for the 10 mile stretch instead of 55...

        How is that abuse? Anyone doing 80mph on a road where the limit is 55mph is breaking the law and should be caught and fined, and if they do it too many times, have their car impounded and crushed into a little cube, and then charged a disposal fee for their cube.

        I have been doing a lot of driving the last few years and the amount of times I get passed by dickheads doing stupid speeds makes

        • by nack107 ( 704482 )
          You are looking at a very small picture. If the police abuse this technology, anyone near the gps coordinates where a crime is committed is instantly a suspect. Speeding is the least of our worries, but since you address it so callously, how about the times where we need to speed? I had to rush someone to the hospital a few days ago. I broke the speed limit. Should my cell phone be telling the cops how evil of a person I am and mail me a ticket? It is a very slippery slope that should be avoided. Tra
          • by jamesh ( 87723 )

            You are looking at a very small picture. If the police abuse this technology, anyone near the gps coordinates where a crime is committed is instantly a suspect.

            So what? Would you rather be a suspect because someone said you were there, or because you were there? That would never hold up in court anyway, a cellphone isn't a person. I assumed we were talking now about gps stuff permanent attached to cars.

            I had to rush someone to the hospital a few days ago. I broke the speed limit. Should my cell phone be tel

        • by vertinox ( 846076 ) on Sunday February 03, 2008 @10:23AM (#22281862)
          How is that abuse? Anyone doing 80mph on a road where the limit is 55mph is breaking the law and should be caught and fined, and if they do it too many times, have their car impounded and crushed into a little cube, and then charged a disposal fee for their cube.

          I think the problem is that of now, everyone breaks the law every now and then without really thinking about it. If the world got to a state where you got punished every time you broke the law even slightly then such issue would get quite serious.

          In fact, I'd wager (if you have a car) that you broke the speed limit somewhere the last time you drove even if it was simply 1 to 5mph over the limit.

          The real problem is that many local and state government gets a great deal of revenue from speeding and parking tickets so rather than to alleviate the core problem of they encourage quotas and sometimes post arbitrary low speed limits in order to increase revenue. I mentioned parking tickets because there was story a while back where an Apple Store offered to buy two parking meters outside their store to mark as no-parking zone for aesthetics (you know Apple) at the theoretical price of what those parking meters could provide if they were maned 24/7 365 days a year, but the city refused on the grounds it had never been done but moreover they made more money from parking tickets than the actual meters. Its the same with speeding... They don't want reduction but they want the violations.

          If a cell phone system allowed them to charge violators instantly it would result in more of this at the extreme not to mention possible corruption. Recently in Philadelphia, there is a big spat between city hall and the Parking Authority [philly.com] about revenue and where it is going and complaints about corruption the the Authority organization.

          My first suggestion would be to either have revenues earn not go to the gathering organization itself but possibly elsewhere like education or charity.

          And if they want a technical solution, then I would argue that make it so cars can't break the posted limit rather than fining them money every time they violate the speed (and or parking). Now keep in mind, I'm probaly one of the more slower drivers out there you'll meet and you'll never see me park in a place I'm not supposed to (I'm that anal) but the issue that these organizations being allowed another way to squeeze money and make things arbitrarily "more illegal" in order to increase revenue bothers me.

          None of these government bodies actually want to curb speeding. Their livelihood depends on it.
          • by jacksonj04 ( 800021 ) <nick@nickjackson.me> on Sunday February 03, 2008 @10:37AM (#22281950) Homepage
            Making cars not able to break the speed limit is a massive safety problem. I've been in situations (usually on a motorway or other large trunk road) where something has happened, a guy loses control and pings off the central reservation etc and I needed the extra speed *immediately* to get out of the way. If I was already cruising down the outside lane at 70mph (UK limit) then where would I get the extra speed from? I suppose some form of 'burst' limiting could be a solution.

            Also there's a huge difference between safe and not. On an empty motorway with clear vision I would say it's safe to do 90mph or up, conversely on a motorway in heavy fog it's common to see people going no faster than 50, and that's on the outside. If you're being really anal about it then some drivers are far safer at high speeds than others. There can be no technical solution to this unless there is a system in place which knows the skill of all drivers, the position of all cars, all road conditions, and is capable of making intelligent judgements about what is safe and what isn't.
            • An emotive issue this one, everybody loves to go fast, right?

              Speed limits are not just to protect drivers from themselves. Vehicle speeds are also an environmental problem - not a 'oh noes think of teh poor treees' one, but a human environment problem. Faster vehicles = more noise outside and inside. Faster vehicles = higher concentrations of exhaust fumes and brake dust. Faster vehicles = less time to cross the road. Faster vehicles = "don't play outside" instead of "watch out for cars". Faster vehicles =
            • by Dan541 ( 1032000 )
              In Australia the speed limit is 70kmph 43mph on alot of highyways that have two lanes eachway and a center divider.

              We have the road safety council over here who are a bunch of frauds that you rather blame the road toll on people who speed than the dickheads who don't give way to other vehicles.

              The real problem with roads in my state is nothing to do with people speeding, the problem is that there is no requirement to getting a drivers license here you just need to drive around the block without crashing.

          • but the city refused ... they made more money from parking tickets.

            I will never discount the motive of greed. But for all city resources in short supply, i.e., parking in shopping centers, cities have an obligation to ration in some sensible way. Parking meters encourage you to come shop, pay a couple of quarters (50c yesterday in front of the Apple store nearby me), get your couple of items and move on. So somebody else could go get a present at Gap Kids or Williams-Sonoma, etc.

            Merchants could get a bit ti
        • That is probably the funniest comment I've read in a very long time. "Dickheads" will just leave their cellphones at home (or turn off their in-car cellphone for that matter) and continue to drive wrecklessly, while anyone doing 57mph instead of 55mph simply because they can't be bothered to stare at the speedometer all the time will get their asses fined time and time again. I won't even go into the details of how concentrating on keeping a given speed will reduce concentration on what's going on on the r
          • "Dickheads" will just leave their cellphones at home (or turn off their in-car cellphone for that matter) and continue to drive wrecklessly
            Did you spell it "wrecklessly" ironically, or did you mean "recklessly" [reference.com]? 'Cause if you did that ironically it's hilarious.
        • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

          by SvetBeard ( 922070 )

          I work in the traffic engineering industry. There are two things you have to realize about speeding: first, many speed limits are set artificially low and second, speed itself isn't dangerous--it's the difference in speed that causes accidents.

          The accepted method for setting speed limits is to collect speed data on all vehicles on the road for 24 hours on a typical day. This is usually done using those two rubber tubes you may see placed across the road at times. The speed limit is then supposed to be set

          • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

            by WCLPeter ( 202497 )

            This means that if you are the guy driving 55 mph when everyone else is doing 80, you are the one driving recklessly.

            Sorry to burst your bubble but if the posted limit is 55 and I am doing 55, blasting by me at 25 over the posted limit makes you reckless.

            We could argue about the road conditions, the rated speed of the road, or your perception that you're a good driver; none of that matters. Driving is a privilege, not a right, and the posted speed is the posted speed. Don't want to follow the rules of the road as posted? Then don't drive.

            I'm not in any way saying you can't exceed the speed limit in an emergency situat

          • by jamesh ( 87723 )

            it's the difference in speed that causes accidents.

            Every 1mph you increase your speed is a 1mph increase in the speed difference between you and the trees and light posts you are flying past. Or the car by the side of the road just over the hill on a very narrow shoulder who's just blown a tyre or broken down.

            Speaking of blown tyres... there is a fair difference between a blowout at 55mph and 80mph, or even just a brief aquaplane over some water or a slide in some gravel that you didn't notice around a bend

      • by kesuki ( 321456 )
        location capabilities of cell phones (done via triangulation, not gps) is by default set to 'e 911 only' if you turn the feature on, and the police start using the cell phone company records to prove your speed it's your own fault for turning it on. Still, i doubt that the cell companies even want to collect, and send all that data to the police. if you're not in a call, it uses a lot of network bandwidth to triangulate 'every' phone, every '3' seconds, even if it's only 'the phones on the highway'

    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      I wonder if these sort of systems might lead to real-time changes in toll prices some day. Transportation authorities could leverage real-time stats to charge more for passage during peak traffic periods, and this sort of system would accommodate unexpected increases without any additional effort on their part. It could even sense traffic congestion issues in other areas and anticipate upcoming loads. Not that I agree with such practices, just wondering if they'll be implemented. Couple this with highly exp
    • measuring a system changes the system.
      Does this mean that the students do, or do not, end up in front of the Marine [villainouscompany.com] recruiting office?
  • by caluml ( 551744 ) <slashdot@@@spamgoeshere...calum...org> on Sunday February 03, 2008 @05:45AM (#22280822) Homepage
    Another idea I had years ago [calum.org]. My idea though was to pay people to run the software on their phones (just as Google pay people to have ads on their sites - paying per hour of data uploaded, or something similar), and then lease the aggregated data to interested parties. Companies interested in building/buying toll roads, government agencies to see if new roads need to be built, etc etc.
    However, with SatNav getting more and more sophisticated, it was only going to be a matter of time before TomTom (or whoever) built a model where it uploaded your position back to them, enabling them to build up a realtime picture of traffic speeds, which they could then use to update drivers to avoid jams, etc.
    • Although your idea sounds nice, I think it's far more likely that we'll see automotive manufacturers paid (or given tax subsidies) to incorporate this technology into automobiles. Sort of an OnStar for the D.O.T. (InTraffic?)

      • by caluml ( 551744 )
        Yep. A previous idea I had was for a black-box for cars. You could buy one, and have your insurance lowered, because it would make working out what happened after a crash much easier. "You did 96 mph through this cross-roads - we're not going to pay."
        • by AGMW ( 594303 )
          "You did 96 mph through this cross-roads - we're not going to pay."

          Sure, that's the way to convince people to fit spy-ware into their cars!

          If the Black Box was owned by you and no one had authority to examine it without your express permission that might be a different story. You could use it to prove you weren't breaking some traffic rule if you wanted to, or decide not to use the information, at which point the jury could draw their own conclusions.

          That might work!

          • by esper ( 11644 )
            "Draw their own conclusions"? You mean like "He's accused of speeding, but won't share the black box data. Therefore, he's obviously guilty of speeding and is probably trying to hide something much worse, too. So now we just have to decide how many millions to fine him for those other, unknown crimes that he's hiding..."?
        • You mean like Norwich Union http://www.norwichunion.com/pay-as-you-drive/index.htm [norwichunion.com]?
          • by caluml ( 551744 )
            Not really. That's just how much you drive. I built a black-box about 14 years ago, and it measured things like: speed, revs, G force, accelerator, brake, clutch, gear selected, what state the lights/indicators/windscreen wipers were on, etc.
            Basically, after a crash, you would have been able to recreate the lead up to the accident exactly. Were they braking, were they at 5000 revs in 3rd gear, or 3000 in 5th. Did they have their lights on, etc.
            • The problem is that it is a "slippery slope" ( http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Slippery_slope [wikipedia.org] ). At what point does such a device go from being a discount for having one to penalty for not having one? At what point does it go from being an option to a requirement? At what point does it then evolve into something used for times that were not accident related but for any violations? At what point do corporations and governments start monitoring the data without your consent or even knowing.

              I see the "slippe
              • The problem is that it is a "slippery slope" ( http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Slippery_slope [wikipedia.org] )

                Since you posted the Wikipedia link, I will assume you're aware that the slippery slope argument is fallacious when the inevitability of the ultimate condition is unproven. So why are you using it?

                • Um, because it *is* a slippery slope. That doesn't mean it is inevitable. But it is very possible, especially when you see similar things happening all the time.

                  Want an example? Seat belt laws. Here:

                  * Nobody has the right to tell us what to do with our bodies in our cars.
                  * OK, well, we will just pass the law for minors.
                  * OK, well, we will require belts for adults, but not enforce it.
                  * OK, well, now we will enforce it, but only if stopped for something else.
                  * Now they can pull you over ONLY for not wear
              • by caluml ( 551744 )
                Oh, absolutely. I was about 18, and I didn't think about privacy, or indeed the change from carrot to stick. However, if I'd patented it, and made a few million, I'd have probably thought about it for a few minutes from the comfort of my luxury villa, while my supermodel g/f got me a nice drink.
    • They don't need to - you can triangulate the position of any mobile phone to within a few feet if it's switched on.. it just needs someone with access to that data to be able to work out the speeds that they're travelling.
      • by caluml ( 551744 )
        Wrong. It's generally from about 300 metres in cities to 1-4 miles in rural areas. And it's not that accurate. It's just the point in the middle of the towers that your phone can "see". Check out http://calum.org/location/ [calum.org] - it uses both methods. GPS when I'm running the GPS app on my phone, and cell-triangulation at other times. Currently, it says I'm at 51.452371,-2.618589 +/-372 metres. Good, but not that good. Plus you only update when you make/receive a call/text/data session, switch the phone on/off,
    • Re: (Score:1, Interesting)

      by Anonymous Coward
      You don't need software, or even a GPS.

      They've been doing this for a year in Belgium, purely on a basis of cell network data (first a regional test project, turned nationwide half a year ago).

      Triangulation delivers location data with a pretty good resolution (something like 15 meters).

      All cell phones that are powered on are being tracked. The collected data are anonymized (SIM card ID removed after some preprocessing to detect routes followed), so they can see that "someone" drove a certain route in a cert
  • skeptical -1

    Will it not be misused by finding the routine information of people?

    • by Dan541 ( 1032000 )

      skeptical -1

      Will it not be misused by finding the routine information of people?

      Mayb not today, Mayb not tomorro.... but some day!

    • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

      Perhaps in the future systems like this will be linked into your phone to deliver real-time advertisements for nearby stores, restaurants, etc. Of course, using your cell phone while driving will still be illegal...

      *** INCOMING TEXT MESSAGE *** Get 2-for-1 pizzas at Papa John's!!!! Turn right ahead.

      *** INCOMING TEXT MESSAGE *** Buy lingerie for that special someone at Victoria's Secret!!! Turn left ahead.

      *** INCOMING TEXT MESSAGE *** Buy [driver chucks cell phone out window]

  • Big Brother (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Dan541 ( 1032000 )
    Will this gps information be warrantless?
  • On Fberuary 3, 2008, about 100.000 Slashdot readers will participate in the clickvertising experiment, using website increase to Ronad Piquepailles site. ...
  • "So Dad, what did you do while you were in college?"

    "Well son, I helped testing this monitoring system that allows the government and some big companies to track your every move nowadays. But in my time, they only used it to do a traffic thingy."
  • I never understood why GPS is considered such a good feature in a cell phone. On the contrary, it is possibly a bad thing, given the number of cases of wire tapping, cell phone eavesdropping (even when turned off [zdnet.com]). We already have enough privacy concerns given that triangulation can already tell a close-enough location of a cell phone user.
  • by blacklabelsk8er ( 839023 ) on Sunday February 03, 2008 @06:21AM (#22280980) Journal
    The more I see stories like this, the more I feel that a full-on Big Brother world could be oncoming. Sure, it could provide all kinds of data on the technicalities of GPS tracking via mobile phone triangulation or whatnot, but how much danger is there that these kinds of 'experiments' could be field tests for a greater invasion of privacy? RealID or even RFID, combined with this sort of GPS tracking could provide all the pieces needed to make our highway system a channelized control mechanism.

    I should be more 'forward thinking' for my age I suppose. Does anyone else think that our privacy outweighs the convenience that realtime navigation and itinerary interactivity could potentially provide?
  • Last year TomTom announced their HD Traffic system http://www.tomtom.com/news/category.php?ID=4&NID=389&Language=4 [tomtom.com] that is using GSM handset location information from Vodafone to determine traffic conditions on dutch highways. Every 3 minute TomTom gets raw, anonymous handset location data from Vodafone. This data is then processed to determine where on the high ways large concentrations of mobile phones are moving slow. This might mean that there is a traffic jam at that location.

    Each TomTom with H
    • by Dan541 ( 1032000 )

      What is a car has broken down? will it trigger a traffic jam notification? How about paralell roads that are jammed? Or taxi's waiting at the trainstation for a pick up?

      I agree how can you tell how many cars there are by the number of phones?

      Lets not forget busses/trams that add a huge number of phones to the area but only one vehicle, trains that dont affect road traffic (with the exception of railway crossings) and pedestrians, will two people walking down the footpath be counted as 2 slow moving cars.

      If I have 5 people in my car it means there is a minimum of 5 phones in one vehicle and other times there is just me with 1 phone.


  • Turn off the phone when you're driving.
  • ..I would suggest bringing their battery charger along. 10miles with the GPS enabled is a little on the excessive side for the N95.
  • Is it just me.... or.... did I read the same article on /. a few months back?
  • The only difference between this and what is done regularly by transportation research groups is the fact that instead of using normal gps devices, they just happen to be cell phones as well this time... I personally covered a few drive shifts when some of the interns where I work couldn't make it.
  • I have a system like that already installed on my car. It's called gBook MX ( http://g-book.com/pc/default.asp [g-book.com] ) In Japan, we already have a system called VICS ( http://www.vics.or.jp/english/index.html [vics.or.jp] ) which monitors traffic on highways and some big/medium sized roads, using sensors placed over the road to track the speed of car flow, and then this information is gathered, processed and broadcasted to cars' navigation systems (by an FM radio signal, afaik) in a form of level of traffic on roads (which t
  • Slow from 6-9:30 and 4:30-7:00, mostly northbound in the morning, mostly southbound in the evening. When do I get my grant money?
  • Bad idea! Constant Surveillance and privacy invasion.

    Somebody will come up with a "friendly" name, such as Living Vigilance .

    1. Cell Phone transmits location, receives location-based advertisements.

    2. Smile & Wave at Security Camera.

    3. REAL ID\driver's license (still in pocket) scanned at shop entrance.

    4. Smile & Wave at Security Camera.

    5. Credit card scanned at purchase. Purchases registered and recorded.

    6. Smile & Wave at Security Camera.

  • It doesn't make sense to use phones or triangulation to track cars. Keep in mind that driving is a highly regulated privilege, not a right. Within a few years you can be pretty sure that a GPS will be required in every motor vehicle (looking at you, sport bike riders). Have fun getting out of those speeding tickets, claiming you stopped at the stop sign, weren't weaving all over the road, weren't at the bank when it was robbed, etc. It's going to happen.
    • Keep in mind that driving is a highly regulated privilege, not a right.

      Freedom of travel is a basic human right. (Papers please!) I suppose its questionable how you do it though. If you can't get there by bus, train, or air and hitchhiking and pedestrians on highways are illegal then tell me how does one travel freely?
      • by tomhath ( 637240 )
        I don't see how regulating the operation of a motor vehicle has anything to do with freedom of travel. And besides, the law already requires that you have a license, the vehicle be registered and street legal, that you obey traffic regulations, etc. All of that relates to an even more basic right, personal safety. Doesn't it?
  • I am constantly forgetting my cell phone at home or at work. Will I then get to a red light and be stuck because the GPS says I'm not there?
  • The bigbrother tag amuses me, because it seems to imply that this cell phone GPS thing could be used against your will to track you or something. Well I've got a N95 and I have no fear of that happening, because for the GPS to synchronise you need to slide your cell phone out and wait about one minute and a half in a clear outdoors location. So clearly using a N95 you can be sure that the GPS will only be used if you want it to be used.

    • by Forbman ( 794277 )
      Well, the first thing I did when my now ex-wife filed a restraining order on me (more or less standard dirty trick procedure in divorces these days) was turn ON the active GPS tracking on my cell phone. I need to have some sort of alibi available to me in case she decides to do it again.

      Divorce sucks.
  • It'd be interesting to provide a facility in phones to help make this less prone to privacy issues & semi-legal use by law enforcement. For example, allowing stations to poll passing phones for position and "instantaneous" speed (calculated internally by the phone using, say, the last 3 GPS position checks). Something like that would permit phone responses to omit any unique identifier since there would not be as much of a need to connect multiple responses from a single unit.

    An alternative would be to
  • Not new. (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Blrfl ( 46596 )
    This isn't new by any stretch of the imagination.

    In 1994 (that's pushing two decades ago) I worked on a pilot project with Bell Atlantic Mobile (now Verizon), FHWA, Virginia DOT and the Maryland DOT that tracked mobile phones along the Washington, DC Beltway. The phones didn't have to cooperate, and it was also discovered that call rates went through the roof just as backups started to form. A bunch of the technology we developed ended up in some of the early E911 systems.
    • by Blrfl ( 46596 )
      Ugh. Where did I get the two decades figure? Let's do the math...

      (Takes the square root then the arctangent, carries the 1...)


  • Anyone who has lived in an earthquake zone knows that even a ten second warning of an impending earthquake could save many lives. Dive under a desk, stand in a door frame, get out of an elevator, stop your car, etc.

    I wonder if cell phones equipped with GPS and an accelerometer could provide such a warning? Even if only twenty per cent of the accelerometers registered abnormal acceleration, a real time analysis of the data would show the distinctive expanding wave front that could only be caused by a major e
  • Just another reason why not having a mobile telephone is better.
  • How is it a story that a bunch of students are going to try to do this, when there are already commercial services providing the same information? Heck, /. even covered this back in 2005!

    http://yro.slashdot.org/article.pl?sid=05/11/19/143247 [slashdot.org]

    And that was something like the 4th time the story had been posted.

    there's also:

    http://www.tgdaily.com/content/view/30723/113/ [tgdaily.com]

    and these guys have been around for ages.

    http://www.zipdash.com/ [zipdash.com]

    You know what? If they were running a free service that everyone could register
  • And how will this system tell if there road is blocked stopping traffic, or if the road is empty and everyone with cellphones are sitting at the cafe or pub?

Nothing ever becomes real till it is experienced -- even a proverb is no proverb to you till your life has illustrated it. -- John Keats