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Cars supply the latest traffic news

Fraunhofer-Gesellschaft Zur Forderung Der Angewandten Forschung E.V. : 23 May, 2003  (Company News)
It's the same frustrating routine on the way to work every day: The radio announcer reports 'stop-and-go traffic'. And once again, detours are the only way to get to the office on time. Information generated by typical traffic reporting services, such as SMS-based systems, lag behind actual road conditions because they depend primarily on stationary traffic detectors which lack full coverage.
'If a traffic reporting service has a poor information base, people will soon stop using it. We aim to provide better content,' says Werner Schönewolf of the Fraunhofer Institute for Production Systems and Design Technology IPK in Berlin.

The institute, together with Volkswagen subsidiary Gedas, is currently developing a different approach with the City Floating Car Data system. The vehicles themselves act as sensors. The system, equipped with GPS, a GSM unit and a processor, transmits real-time traffic information to a central computer as the vehicle travels along a section of road. FCD detects dense circulation and tailbacks as a function of the speed of the vehicle. With the support of the German research ministry and as part of the WAYflow project, the system underwent feasibility testing in downtown Frankfurt from 1998 through the beginning of this year. Most of the participants supplied with the FCD system were regular commuters who drive the same route at the same time each day. 'Even with 200 vehicles, you can obtain statistically significant data on the main routes in Frankfurt,' says Schönewolf. FCD was originally designed for highway networks. Its adaptation for use in a large city imposes new challenges since, besides traffic monitoring, FCD also provides alternative routing based on individual user profiles. To ensure that proposed routes do not pass through residential areas with traffic calming schemes, for example, they must be defined together with local authorities. 'This will be the crucial factor in promoting widespread use of the FCD system,' opines Schönewolf. The IPK eventually hopes to integrate the system in new user terminals, in collaboration with Bosch-Blaupunkt. First however, FCD faces an additional test: As part of an EU project, 200 vehicles will be equipped with the system during the 2004 Summer Olympic Games in Athens.

Notwithstanding the risk of traffic jams, it's still worth visiting the 'Transport Logistics' trade show on May 20-24 in Munich. There you can find out more about City-FCD, featured in the Fraunhofer exhibit 'The Future of Mobility' (Hall B4, Stand 501 / 602).
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