Well, unfortunately my entry in the ITS Congestion Challenge, Bus Meister, was not one of the nine finalists chosen for the competition. I think that the finalists are generally very good, although most are not truly innovative ideas, many have been talked about for years. But perhaps that’s the point of this particular competition, developing products that actually implement some of these good ideas.
You can view the solutions (website removed) and vote for your favorite (I think you need to register to vote and comment). Here’s my run down of the finalists (I have also embedded my two favorite videos):
- Avego – An internet based system that simplifies carpooling. Well done. Their video is an excellent description of how the system would work.
- BroadBit – A system that uses video monitoring on freeways to reduce lane-changing maneuvers and allows drivers to use the hard shoulders for driving. The system’s goal of making traffic flow more linear is good, but it will be a tough to implement a system that involves sending people traffic tickets for changing lanes too frequently on freeways. Also, the developers need to discuss their ideas more with freeway traffic flow experts. For example, why not add real-time speed limits set to maximize flow? And, how will on-ramps be handled? Then of course there is the question of induced traffic. Finally, I think there would be a great deal of resistance towards implementing this kind of system; why not simply use pricing to control traffic volume (see Skymeter below).
- FuelClinic.com – A system designed to encourage people to drive in a more eco-conscious way (to help save fuel). I am not really sure what this has to do with congestion, but it’s a nice idea.
- GCDC – Grand Cooperative Driving Challenge – This is a competition for cooperative driving technologies. Cooperative driving includes receiving information from infrastructure (R2V) and other vehicles (V2V) that helps you determine how to drive (e.g. if you drive 30mph you will reach the traffic signal at the right time). There’s lots of research going on in this field by the automobile companies and others right now.
- iCarpool – Similar to Avego, this is a system for increasing carpooling. I liked Avego’s proposal better, especially the Avego video since it fully described the system. iCarpool’s proposal was a bit unclear.
- iCone – This is a very cool application for state highway departments. It consists of independent traffic monitoring devices in those orange construction site cones. They can monitor traffic in construction zones and on evacuation routes etc. It’s a nice product, although it’s not really a solution for ongoing congestion. The iCone video provides a good description.
- Intellione.com – This system uses cell phone data to monitor traffic flows. Again, lots of research is being done on this subject. This proposal did not seem to be anything special.
- Precyse Tech. – This uses RFID tags to create smart agent networks. The idea is that the RFID tags are better than cell phone data or GPS. The exact function for reducing congestion was not described in the reference website (which discusses tracking freight shipments). Again, lots of on-going research in this area.
- Skymeter Corp. – This is a “financial” GPS. I think this means it is a geographic positioning system that it is accurate enough for use in financial transactions. First I thought Ho-Hum. Then I watched the excellent Skymaster video. Their point is that the only way to really address congestion is through road pricing. The Skymaster technology enables government to adopt more precise and effective ways to charge for driving. As the video says, that’s part 1. Part 2 is having governments actually implement a road pricing scheme. Of course for those of us following the debate, the technology is about 10% of the problem, getting governments to adopt these systems is about 90% – at least Skymaster recognizes this and is up front about it.
The Skymeter Corp. proposal struck a chord with me because I believe in road pricing, but also because they clearly recognize that technology is not really useful without social/institutional change needed to get good ideas implemented.That’s what I like about Bus Meister … it combines technology with user involvement to create an environment for actually implementing real transportation improvements.I found the Vencorps process to be quite good in the sense that I received some feedback from other users that has helped me refine my proposal. However there were so many solutions submitted for the ITS Challenge that it was hard to review them all and make helpful comments. It will be interesting to see how the competition ends.
As for Bus Meister, it’s probably a bit ahead of its time, but I have written a Transportation Research Board paper for the 2010 Annual Meeting that discusses the idea in the context of Web 2.0 technology for public involvement in the transport planning process and I am continuing to look for funding. Plus … filming for the music video is underway!