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How intelligent car navigation could improve city traffic conditions

Radim Cmar, Sygic, looks at the practicalities of how connected cars could reduce traffic congestion.


Not too long ago, the concept of navigation meant unfolding a giant map and trying to focus on the road while reading the tiny city names. There’s a scene that has been overplayed in popular culture where the wind snatches the map and whips it out of the window, leaving the driver lost in unknown territory.


The concept of GPS devices that track the driver’s position in real time quickly caught on. They have created a dependence on navigation apps that didn’t previously exist.


A 2018 survey by The Manifest concluded that over 77 per cent of mobile phone users use navigation apps regularly. What’s more, over 36 per cent of them turn on their GPS apps before even leaving their current location.


But what about the future of commuting? Connected cars now present opportunities to develop car navigation further, and they could lead to fewer traffic jams in major cities.


With more than 470 million connected cars expected on the roads by 2025 in the EU, the US and China alone, and $292 billion in market growth expected by the same year, the potential impacts of connected car navigation are being explored.


How can the vehicles of the future contribute to further navigation developments, and how will traffic conditions change as a result?


Calculating dedicated routes


A dedicated route is an individual course assigned to each vehicle on a case-by-case basis. Instead of congesting traffic all in one bottleneck avenue, cars are spread out over multiple roads and sent to their destinations through alternative routes.


By calculating dedicated routes in a specific city for every connected vehicle, a maximum level of coordination can be achieved, which significantly reduces traffic jams.


Dedicated directions would need to be calculated over a central routing engine under the city’s control.


These dedicated directions would need to be calculated over a central routing engine under the city’s control. Cities could provide the routing engine as a free service for all navigation apps with an open protocol, which could connect to the engine through navigation apps like Google Maps and Waze.


Then, using a cloud-based configuration system or a supercomputing platform, the routes would be assigned to each car.


The system would generate big data, anonymised or aggregated, to improve driving conditions.


In essence, it is a route recommendation system. As an example, the navigation software company Graphmasters claims it was able to successfully apply swarm mentality to traffic conditions in pilot programmes.


Merging multiple traffic data sources


Today, cities are aiming to collect big data, including information about traffic. The good news is traffic data is readily available from multiple sources. Cities don’t typically hold road sensor data but Floating Car Data (FCD) is self-generated in the system. Other data, such as that from SIM cards, can be purchased from third parties.


All of this data can be processed into a central system. In theory, a central system could be owned by anyone – be it a private company or a municipal traffic authority. The central system could automatically calculate current congestion levels and also give predictions on traffic conditions up to 30 minutes ahead of time.


Similar to the routing engine, big data collection and artificial intelligence (AI) or machine learning algorithms could be applied for more accurate traffic predictions.


What’s more, through gathering data from multiple sources, the system could recognise that the volume of vehicles on a given street is high and therefore choose more appropriate alternative routes for other drivers.


The system could “see” the future and recalculate the drivers’ routes to avoid traffic jams.


In other words, the system could “see” the future and recalculate the drivers’ routes to avoid traffic jams.


Implementing autonomous vehicles


People inherently become a bit selfish when they get behind the wheel of a car.


As it turns out, this psychological phenomenon is one of the main contributors to the development of traffic jams. However, studies show that selfish driver behaviour patterns can be improved by over 30 per cent when a central authority overrules traffic conditions.


As such, the solution would be to have a central authority to overrule traffic conditions, therefore eliminating the human behavioural factor. Hence, the implementation of autonomous vehicles.


For starters, if driverless cars are always on the road and always moving, this means fewer parked cars causing traffic jams. Studies have shown that even if autonomous vehicles made up as little as five per cent of the cars on roads, they could significantly impact traffic flow in a given city.


Providing significant travel time improvements would require that as many people as possible start using the autonomous vehicle system. This could be through a kind of rideshare service with driverless cars, or even used as individual transport vehicles.


Intelligent cars have all of the necessary technology to communicate with the central system and each other. There would be city-wide vehicle coordination, resulting in maximum road infrastructure efficiency.


The solution to traffic problems caused by urbanisation is to focus on using the available tools to create an ecosystem of intelligent car navigation.


Cities all over the world are looking for ways to reduce traffic. With continuous migration to urban cities, traffic problems are rising everywhere. The solution is to focus on using the available tools to create an ecosystem of intelligent car navigation.


By getting people to participate and accurately collecting data, cities can reduce traffic and improve travel times – providing a smoother experience for drivers. In the end, the future of intelligent car navigation is bright, interconnected and full of opportunities.


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