By Elizabeth Ross, writer of The Christian Science Monitor
The Christian Science Monitor
YOU'RE headed out the door on a typical weekday morning at rush hour. Suddenly, you're faced with the car commuter's dilemma: Which road should you take? The traffic gridlock could be anywhere. You need help and you need it fast.
So, who ya gonna call?
A new Boston area travel information service introduced last month, SmarTraffic provides up-to-date traffic information by telephone to commuters all over eastern Massachusetts. Commuters need only dial the local number on a touch-tone telephone and they get instant information about all major Boston roadways as well as the city's commuter rail, bus, and subway systems.
The service, created by SmartRoute Systems of Cambridge, Mass., is a public/private partnership, which receives half its funding from the Federal Highway Administration. It is the nation's first operational test of Intelligent Vehicle Highway System (IVHS) technology for a large metropolitan area. SmartRoute hopes to expand its service to other US cities.
"What is really profound and unique about this service is that for the first time ever, traffic and transit information is now available over the phone, not just over the radio," says David Stein, executive vice president of SmartRoute.
To use the SmarTraveler service, commuters call the local telephone number and punch in a specific highway route. Besides up-to-date service, the system also includes "static" data such as ongoing construction projects and events that will slow traffic.
The SmarTraffic system relies on several sources for traffic information, including 30 live and slow-scan television cameras stationed along major highways, a team of commuters on contract who phone in traffic information regularly, two airplanes, and radio and telephone contact with state highway and public safety agencies.
Traffic data are then fed into the SmarTraffic's computers and audiotext equipment so that the information is continually updated.
SmartRoute company founder John Liebesny, together with Micrologic Inc. …