Traffic Info Now, When You Need It

There was a time when the typical metropolitan radio station that wanted to offer "traffic reports" hired a helicopter pilot and sent him into the air to do the task as best as possible. The information was haphazard at best and often delivered well after it could do any good.

Well, that was then. Now one of the largest radio station chains in the country, Clear Channel Radio, has turned its Total Traffic Network into a juggernaut that provides real-time traffic information in 49 cities, with information gleaned from its own airplanes, helicopters and ground-based reporters, plus automated sensors. And its capabilities just got bigger with the introduction of traffic speed data from Inrix's Smart Dust Network, which combines the largest GPS-enabled vehicle probe network in the world with speed information garnered from conventional road sensors and numerous other sources.

Two basic kinds of data go into the traffic reporting and predicting business. The reporting of traffic incidents, most often accidents but also stalls and weather-related road closures, is one of the key pair; the other is real-time speed data, which indicates how fast traffic is flowing on various metropolitan arteries. The addition of the Inrix data is expected to enhance that portion of the offering substantially.

Clear Channel will begin delivering the enhanced real-time traffic information via its Total Traffic Network in U.S. cities beginning in March, and testing is going on as we write this. The integration of the new data is expected to enable Clear Channel's automotive and portable navigation customers to provide higher quality, traffic-influenced dynamic routing and traffic congestion maps incorporating the broadest coverage of speed information available anywhere, except maybe in heaven. Companies such as BMW, Garmin, Tom Tom, Mio/Mitac, NAVIGON, Cobra Electronics, Siemens VDO and others currently use the Clear Channel service.

Total Traffic Network currently deploys select Inrix real-time speed data, derived from traditional road sensors, in a dozen U.S. markets. With the new enhanced relationship between the two companies, Total Traffic Network is significantly expanding its real-time speed market coverage by leveraging the Smart Dust Network, which combines anonymous speed and flow information from traditional road sensors, toll tags and more than 625,000 commercial fleet vehicles, delivery trucks and taxis across the United States. Total Traffic Network now has immediate access to real-time flow information from Inrix in 92 metropolitan markets, representing more than five times the coverage of conventional road sensor networks.

In all, the Total Traffic Network now serves more than 130 metropolitan markets in three countries, including the United States, Mexico and New Zealand, though not all of them use the Inrix data. All of this is largely invisible to consumers, but consumers can tap into the information by using a navigation device from a manufacturer affiliated with the company. More information is available at the Total Traffic Network Web site.

Driving Today Contributing Editor Tom Ripley writes about the auto industry and the human condition from his home in Villeperce, France. Lucky for him, he's largely immune to traffic.