All of us hate being stuck in traffic - and wonder if there was a
way to go. SpeedInfo has spent the past two years developing a
provide drivers with radically better traffic information. We give the
a color coded map in the car that shows how fast cars are going on all
the major highways in the area. At a glance, the driver can see which
have the slowest traffic, and make an informed decision about when and
We supplement public highway speed information with data from low-cost
Doppler speed sensors that we have developed. Our sensor is solar
and uses cellular data connections to backhaul its data. It measures
every 15 seconds, and reports the average speed once a minute. After
data is validated by our servers, it is transmitted to the car over FM
The design allows us to integrate the data with navigation systems and
car radios for less than $10.
saving drivers time, money, and gasoline, the system also helps us use
highways more efficiently. When cars avoid the most congested areas
peak times and choose alternative routes, we do a better job of
the load across the highway network. Fewer cars stuck in traffic jams
less air pollution. Drivers can also respond better in an emergency by
the best route to avoid problem areas.
Doug Finlay, the founder and CEO of SpeedInfo, will give an overview of
the company's technology and product rollout timetable.
Doug Finlay began his talk by explaining that $70 Billion is wasted
day in the USA on traffic congestion, one way or another. SpeedInfo was
on the idea that if drivers could get more reliable and timely
on where traffic bottlenecks were, they could use alternative routes to
around them. He pointed out that just reducing the number of people
to squeeze past an accident by 10% could make a big difference in net
He then explained a bit about the current traffic information system.
It is based on street sensors that have been there for 20 years,
traffic reports, and things like volunteers calling in problems as they
aware of them. There are many gaps in the street sensor network. Some
them were caused by a lack of available phone and power cabling to
I/O to (for example I-280 between San Francisco and San Jose), and
are caused by maintenance type issues. One of the problems with
it is the expense of cutting holes in the concrete to put sensors in,
works out to be very disruptive, expensive, and time consuming.
The SpeedInfo solution for data collection is an extruded metal tube
about four inches across and two feet long with a solar panel above it
can be easily strapped to a light or telephone pole with metal bands.
the tube is a set of sealed batteries that can drive the electronics
ten years, a sensor that uses technology similar to that in police
guns to sense cars going by, and a proprietary circuit board. Finlay
that the software in the box "glopts" the radar signal into a blob for
car, and then measures how far it moves from one frame to the next to
out how fast the traffic is moving. This information is then uploaded
a standard cell phone modem to SpeedInfo's server, where it is combined
information from others to create a gestalt for the commuter.
The SpeedInfo solution for information distribution is a box about an
inch thick, maybe 5" by 7". Most of the front is taken up by a flat
display, a map that can be scrolled to where the user wants to see the
situation. The plan is to get a station with a high powered FM
like KQED's to broadcast the information, so that it can be picked up
the area. Finlay explained that many of the companies doing
mapping equipment are interested in combining SpeedInfo into their
so that car computers can simply pick the best way to get somewhere. He
around the display, and everybody liked the concept.
At the moment SpeedInfo is beta testing their traffic sensors. He
up the information coming off of ones on I-405 in Orange County, 16th
in Washington, DC, and another in New York City. We could see that
speeds varied from about 55 to 80 MPH, with most of the readings in the
range. 16th Street moved much slower, about what you would expect. The
units have been on location since last spring. Finlay expects to be
to instrument the Bay Area next spring at the earliest. Partly this
on whom he can make a deal with to get it done. Both CalTrans and 511
expressed an interest in the project, but nobody has committed funding
During Q&A a lot of interesting points were discussed.
The radar sensor has a diode that broadcasts at 24.125 GHz.
Each sensor will cost $600 installed, including the labor of the guy in
the cherry picker strapped it to the pole.
At this point in time he has patents pending on several aspects of the
One of the reasons this hasn't been done before is that cell phone
wasn't widely available until recently. This is important because that
where they save a lot of cost by eliminating dedicated wiring from the
SpeedInfo would much rather be an information wholesaler than a
Because of this they are talking to other companies that already have
shelf space and brand recognition to sell to the driving public about
this into their product line. So far nobody has gone for it yet though.
The main change required for northern latitudes would be a bigger solar
Rain is not be a problem for the system, although hail might be. One
difficulty SpeedInfo is having is that hailstorms are not common enough
any of their sensors have gone through one to test the theory.