Forgot your password?
typodupeerror
Technology Software Hardware Linux

MIT Researchers Fight Gridlock with Linux 75

Posted by Soulskill
from the open-roads-with-open-source dept.
nerdyH brings us a report about a Linux-based device being developed at MIT which aims to reduce traffic congestion as well as assist automotive research projects. "The current focus of the project is in developing algorithms that run on top of the portal application to help drivers plot the best route at a given time. For example, the team's MyRoute project includes applications that model delays observed on road segments as statistical distributions. Various algorithms then use these to compute optimal routes for different times of the day. 'Instead of asking the shortest time or shortest distance from point A to point B, you ask what route should be taken, say, for the highest probability of getting to the airport by a certain time depending on the time selected,' says Madden."
This discussion has been archived. No new comments can be posted.

MIT Researchers Fight Gridlock with Linux

Comments Filter:
  • that know how to game the system will ever get to the airport on time, cool.
    • In most metropolitan cities, ESPECIALLY in California, all local roads are hopelessly jammed during rush hour.

      If you fly overhead over Sacratomato on most days, you will see tendrils of red (red tail lights) spreading rapidly all over the city between 6:45am and 8:30am, until the whole city is utterly clogged. Almost nothing is passable in this city during rush hour; by 7:30, there are no alternate paths in the city that can get you out of a traffic jam if you are, say, commuting from Elk Grove to Carmichae
      • Re: (Score:1, Insightful)

        by Anonymous Coward
        People want better routes, more lanes, better signals, but people don't want construction, don't want to see buildings/areas become public property for expansion, and most of all, don't want to pay for it.
  • No live data? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by timeOday (582209) on Sunday February 03, 2008 @11:30AM (#22282230)
    Within a few years I don't think we'll just be using statistics of past data, but rather real-time traffic data from cars that link into a real-time network. All it will take is a certain density of smartphones with GPS.
    • Re:No live data? (Score:5, Insightful)

      by farkus888 (1103903) on Sunday February 03, 2008 @11:47AM (#22282336)
      that may take longer than you are guessing. mostly because uptake of smartphones is going to be quicker among the technically elite. judging by slashdot posts that particular crowd seems to dislike the idea of someone tracking where they are all the time. people who jump on this are probably not going to be getting gps phones till the free phone from their carrier has it. or you could go with the assumption that what is posted is likely far from what these people do in their real lives... for example how many of these privacy nuts use gmail?
      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by Jeff DeMaagd (2015)
        GPS isn't necessary. E911 location is probably "good enough" for this type of location and it's in every phone right now. I woudn't go for it because both systems suck down batteries. Another reason I wouldn't want to participate in a program that would help the Department of Fatherland Security anyway, they'll probably find some way to get unfettered access to the information.
        • I wouldn't want to participate in a program that would help the Department of Fatherland Security anyway, they'll probably find some way to get unfettered access to the information.

          Hmmm.... Trying to think of a rationale that might be used for why Homeland Security would have to want to look at the traffic jam data, they could say that they need the data to practice so that, if it ever happens that a disaster means that they need to evacuate a city, they could develop a system that would allow them to do wo without clogging the streets.

          But actually, that would be a good us of the system; if there ever were an evacuation, it would be useful to have a system to reroute around the in

      • Re:No live data? (Score:5, Informative)

        by rvw (755107) on Sunday February 03, 2008 @12:03PM (#22282432)
        In the Netherlands TomTom and Vodafone are experimenting with this. They track the movement of mobile phone users along the highway. That way they can see how the traffic is moving. You get the data on your TomTom if you take a subscription.
      • by timeOday (582209)
        Maybe, but then look at TiVo and other PVRs. Their uptake doesn't seem to be slowed by spying on you. And in that case, the spying doesn't even give the consumer anything in return.
      • by Colin Smith (2679)

        judging by slashdot posts that particular crowd seems to dislike the idea of someone tracking where they are all the time.
        Really? Some of us subscribe to services which do exactly this, and gps enabled phones are available for free today.

        e.g.
        http://shop.carphonewarehouse.com/pay-monthly/nokia/n82-titanium/o2/n3018/ [carphonewarehouse.com]
         
    • Re:No live data? (Score:5, Insightful)

      by ptbarnett (159784) on Sunday February 03, 2008 @12:00PM (#22282422)

      Within a few years I don't think we'll just be using statistics of past data, but rather real-time traffic data from cars that link into a real-time network. All it will take is a certain density of smartphones with GPS.
      The data is already available in many metropolitan areas:

      http://www.xmradio.com/navtraffic/market_coverage.xmc [xmradio.com]

      The methodology for gathering the info varies, but in Houston they use the electronic tolltags, even on roads that are not tolled. By measuring the time between stations, it calculates the average speed of cars on that segment.

      The results are downloaded into the navigation system in my car, and depicted as green, yellow, or red bars adjacent to the route. However, I've never been able to determine if the GPS routing uses the speed information to calculate the fastest route, as I don't live in an area for which speed information is available. A couple of years ago, it was reported on Slashdot [slashdot.org] that Baltimore was going to test monitoring of traffic speeds using (presumably generic) cellphones. This article [ntoctalks.com], although somewhat dated, reports initial results and also notes that the state of Virginia is doing the same thing.

      • by kabz (770151)
        The exact type of data that the article talks about is available Houston TranStar [houstontranstar.org].
        Click on a segment of Beltway 8 and you get a Roadway speed and travel time popup.
        Within that box is a link to a live speed chart that shows current speed versus yearly average.
    • Re:No live data? (Score:4, Interesting)

      by funwithBSD (245349) on Sunday February 03, 2008 @12:14PM (#22282514)
      I wonder.

      I lost my cellphone this weekend, and I asked my provider: "Well, can't you track it with the built in GPS and tell me where I left it?"

      Guess the answer.

      So how do you get the data off if is not easily accessible by the provider?

      (I entertain the possibility that they don't want to do that so I have to replace the phone)
      • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

        by zippthorne (748122)
        How would the GPS tell you it's under the couch and not in the drawer next to the couch? The accuracy of a phone-sized GPS is not particularly good.
        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by toddestan (632714)
          It could tell you if it was left at work, at home, or at a friend's house, and so forth. It would be atleast a start, if you have no idea where you left it.
      • by gad_zuki! (70830)
        Well GPS has pretty severe limitations. Its in no way 'god's eye' It doesnt work indoors because of signal issues. You need to get x amount of satellites before you get a fix. If the phone is off nothing is going to work.

        Worse, Assisted GPS just kinda figures out the last few cell towers you talked to and gets a fix with a huge radius.

        Generally a phone that is on and is left out in the open can be traced to some degree, but if your phone company told you 'its in a 3 block radius of this spot' then its not
        • Well, in my case it would have helped. Did I leave it at the airport? In the rental car? in the car of the person who picked us up and took us to the rental place? (Where it showed up on Sunday, btw) Or at the TGI-Fridays where the wedding rehersal dinner took place? Or at the flea market where it has been rechipped and being sold?

          Even saying: "It is in your house, dummy" would help.

          Here is the the thing: it is smart enough to tell me about movie theater times to a one block radius as it picks the closest t
    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by buravirgil (137856)
      Reactively re-routing will alleviate congestion, but as the number of users approaches 50%, this strategy diminishes in its return. Only a minority can benefit from reaction to a majority. Early adapters, People-In-A Hurry-with-the-Money, would experience benefit while the congestion, overall, is lowered...so I figure this plan has great appeal-- bureaucrats can insist on its necessity and their monied constituency can avoid the vulgate. Smarter routing Vs. Wider roads...
      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by CastrTroy (595695)
        Meh. Less people driving would probably be an equally good solution. More people carpooling or using public transportation would work a lot better. A good public transit system can get rid of a lot of cars on the road, and clear up a lot of traffic. The problem with most US cities, is that their public transportation services are atrocious.
    • I concur that this will happen, but I question the efficacy. Any technology which serves to decrease traffic congestion (by real-time re-routing or other means) by simply moving traffic to less clogged arteries is merely delaying the inevitable problem of critical traffic density. Sure, you make the system as efficient as possible by utilizing all routes to their capacity, but in doing so you remove the impetus to get vehicles off the streets. Such a situation is only temporary - the result is a decrease
    • by PPH (736903)
      We have some real time data available today in certain metropolitan areas. In
      Seattle [wa.gov], for example, this is already available for local freeways on the web and in various
      other [trafficgauge.com] formats. Data is also collected for smaller roads, but is currently not made available to the public. That will change.

      The problem I can see with the MIT solution (centrally calculated 'optimum' routes) is that the availability of better routes might be made available based upon a drivers willingness to pay. Much like the 'Lexus Lanes'

    • by lhorn (528432)
      Well, a GPS use power all the time,
      but in a car this is negligible. IF the data is anonymized
      I MIGHT let somebody install a free GPS tracker in my car.

      As for GPS-on-a-phone? My phone uses power mostly when
      involved in a call. One SMS a minute is a lot of power.
      Will I be compensated for the data transmitted by MY phone
      using MY power, or am I expected to just charge the thing
      more often and pay for the service in addition? I am not
      sure I like this "smartphone" concept...
  • here's an idea (Score:3, Interesting)

    by ImTheDarkcyde (759406) <ImTheDarkcyde@hotmail.com> on Sunday February 03, 2008 @12:01PM (#22282428) Journal
    Eliminate green arrows from 12am-5am! As an overnight worker I can not tell you how many times I've had to sit at a red light twice because the sensor didn't want to trigger for just one car - and I know the one time I decide to go on a red arrow there is going to be a cop right around the corner.
    • damn slashdots lack of an edit system! I meant to say "get rid of RED arrows"

      Although I probably wouldn't have put red in all caps.
      • by BitZtream (692029)
        So backup and roll forward again to trigger it.

        Or in some cases, straddle both the lanes that are red.

        I too have had the crappy night job and been stuck at many red lights that 'did not sense' my car. All you have to do is figure out the way to get it to detect you, or multiple cars if thats what its looking for.

        In most states there are also exceptions that allow you to run a malfunctioning red light, might want to check up on those to see if these lights you're having problems with are considered malfunct
      • by zcat_NZ (267672)
        Don't go so far forward..?

        I'm not sure how the American system works, but over here there's double-white lines at each set of lights. If you stop behind the lines like you're supposed to, your car is right over the sensor and the light will go green. If you stop halfway over the line (like almost everyone does) the sensor can't see you any more and you have to wait until there's another car behind you. The nighttime cycle stays green for the major road and red for everyone else until it detects a car stoppe
    • Yes, and that's doubly annoying for bicyclists and motorcyclists, who don't trip the sensor at all, so they have to go through a red light if they want to move, or else wait all night.

      A better use of cell phones for traffic jam mitigation would be to have every one of the electronic gadgets that regulates traffic (like those "press this to get a walk signal" buttons, too) have a little sign with a number on it to call when it doesn't work...

    • Well, the next time you're pulled over, flash your tits to the nice officer. If you're a woman, you'll probably get off with a warning. If you're a man, he'll let you go... because you're nuts... and scary. Helps if you've got a beard, too. Either way, it works!
    • by Yetihehe (971185)
      In some countries when there is very small traffic (i.e. night), lights just blink orange.
    • by mechsoph (716782)
      Some states let motorcycle [bikernewsonline.com] riders run red lights after waiting for a while.
    • by symbolic (11752)
      Where I live it's the other way - I regularly have to turn left at a busy intersection. It has a double lane for left turns, so that ought to be some indication as to the volume of traffic. At random times the green arrow lasts only TWO SECONDS, barely enough time for two cars. Meanwhile, the people needing to turn left fill up the available space in the two lanes, and spill over into the regular traffic flow, completely messing that up.

      The other issue I have is light timing in general. I swear to god in so
    • by HartDev (1155203)
      But then you can tell the cop all about the computer software that runs those lights...haha
    • As an overnight worker I can not tell you how many times I've had to sit at a red light twice because the sensor didn't want to trigger for just one car - and I know the one time I decide to go on a red arrow there is going to be a cop right around the corner.

      So call the appropriate office of your local government and complain until they adjust the sensitivity of the induction loop(s) at each problem intersection. In my experience as a transportation-oriented bicyclist (very subject to bad sensor settin

  • It is about time we applied techonolgy to solve the worlds problems. What if all the business leaders coordinated to shift their employee arrival and departure times slightly so as to create a well orchestrated movement of workers? With a little funding I could build a system to coordinate the daily rush hours. The system would take into account departure points and destinations, the course and various elements on the course, and perhaps the best course, preferences and people would select a travel spot.
    • If employers would shifted start times a little we wouldn't need any kind of system. Stop the bullshit sales pitch to create work for yourself. How about employers keeping only workers around for the physically dependent work and sending the rest with the worker home (especially information shufflers,ah the variety) for most of the week instead, that way they could babysit their kids instead of dumping them on the public schools they abhor so much. Just think of how much money and gas could be saved if you
      • You make some good points, one of them is called telecommuting and yes I have written about that. The problem is intelligence and wisdom is not being applied to the current systems to create efficiency because there are those that favor unnecessary profitable consumption. This was part of something I wrote a year ago, I have plenty of work right now, obviously MIT picked up on it they are on the distribution list. Which is part of the plan, as well as keeping the technology in the public domain and engine
  • Reading the summary and article can't but wonder - what if it didn't run Linux but something else? Would it still be news worthy?

    Recently I've been noticing this trend of news about "stuff" doing "things" they were designed to do and the punch line being - it runs Linux.
    Now... I know its a time honored tradition at /. to ask if it runs Linux, but really - who cares? '90s are long gone. Linux is a common thing these days.
    Also... If it works - it works. Does my GPS or stereo run on Linux? Who cares? It works.
    • by T-Bone-T (1048702)
      I came here to say that, only I couldn't figure out how to say it. Well done.
    • by Yetihehe (971185)

      Also... If it works - it works. Does my GPS or stereo run on Linux? Who cares? It works.

      I care. You are clearly not geek or nerd. You don't care HOW your gadgets work. What are you doing on slashdot if you aren't interested in what is preented here? (It's not like "You are not slashdotter, go away", i'm really interested why do you post on slashdot). Some readers of slashdot LIKE what is presented here, but you say: it doesn't interest ME, so it's not interesting. And TFA is clearly on topic with slashdot (

      • by denzacar (181829)

        You are clearly not geek or nerd. You don't care HOW your gadgets work. What are you doing on slashdot if you aren't interested in what is preented here?

        Now... The preferred response to such a statement+question would be to waive my /. ID number in your face and say something like "You don't have the permission to address me yet, young one."
        But I guess I never did pick that up, so..

        Usually, when I want to see how gadget works I get a screwdriver.
        In this case - I read the (T)FA.
        Which explains that it uses GPS and WiFi technology in combination with SQL-based application and some fine algorithms.
        Only reasons they used Linux is - driver support and the fact t

    • by argiedot (1035754)
      FTA:

      "We made a conscious decision to move to Linux because TinyOS was not as easy to work with," says Madden. "With Linux, there are also a huge number of people developing device drivers, and our graduate students already know how to develop with it."

      The article explicitly mentions that there was an advantage to the switch, that's why the mention. I disagree that the /. headline should have had it, because the headline just sounds funny this way. Like it's some epic battle that MIT researchers are waging

      • by denzacar (181829)
        Yet neither title or summary bother to mention that.
        And its not very explicit if its mentioned in only two lines of, somewhere towards the bottom of the text.

        Seeing Linux in the headline makes one wonder - "If they didn't switch from TinyOS, what would happen? Would the story ever make it to /.?".
        Or is BSD and TinyOs just doomed by not having enough Xs in the name?
        You know... like detergents.
        • by argiedot (1035754)

          I think it unlikely that such a story (with BSD) would make it to /. unless, of course, there's an equivalent to LinuxDevices.com which has news on as many new gadgets that use Linux as possible. Is there a website that promotes devices that use either of those systems? It's likely that whoever submitted the story just took the headline off the article. The article naturally had Linux in its name because that's why it's listed on LinuxDevices.com, it's the fact that it runs Linux that's interesting to them.

  • The current focus of the project is in developing algorithms that run on top of the portal application
    So is the goal of this automotive research to drive their car into the blue hole and come out the orange one? That would reduce a lot of traffic!
  • by SuperBanana (662181) on Sunday February 03, 2008 @12:19PM (#22282570)
    Problems currently exacerbating traffic in Boston:

    Density. There are simply too many cars for the roads. Public transit is partly to blame; it's gotten better and more convenient (the Charlie Card was a major improvement- people can board busses *really* fast now, and I'm seeing fewer and fewer here-is-what-I-found-in-my-change-jar types), but the T still has miles to go in terms of reliability, routes, and just plain cleanliness.

    GPS units (and Yahoo/Mapquest/Google maps) which go for the shortest/fastest route, not the *best* route or route with the most 'bandwidth'. For example, it's technically shorter to cut *through* longwood medical area, but it's much faster to go around it- even though there are more traffic lights, they're all in your favor.

    Stupid traffic lights. There's a major intersection near me where, despite the complexity of the intersection (five streets), it's not wired with pads to tell how many cars are where. One car on a tiny side-street fucks up traffic on roads which are classified as arterial (y'know, the ones you can't park on during a snow emergency.) Boston and surrounding cities have hundreds of such intersections- but you'll only find the "smart" ones where rich people live.

    • Do you have any roundabouts in Boston?
  • I have pretty much only ONE way to get to work, about twenty-five miles of expressway.
    • by BUL2294 (1081735)
      Agreed. What's the point of studying gridlock in an area that has 1) have no alternatives (i.e. getting from the Edens & Lake-Cook to downtown Chicago), 2) all of the alternatives are just as gridlocked (Midtown Manhattan or London, UK)??? Sure, companies and employees are using more flex-time but soon those times will be just as gridlocked...

      Frankly, it's time for cities to put together some sort of urban & suburban planning--and those WILL involve more lanes of highway, additional roadways, publ
  • This device brought to my mind the concept of R speed from the HitchHiker's Guide to the galaxy:

    R is a velocity measure, defined as a reasonable speed of travel that is consistent with health, mental wellbeing and not being more than say five minutes late. It is therefore clearly an almost infinitely variable figure according to circumstances, since the first two factors vary not only with speed taken as an absolute, but also with awareness of the third factor. Unless handled with tranquility this equation can result in considerable stress, ulcers and even death.

  • Want to use linux to reduce gridlock? Harness it to improve telecommuting, encourage bicycling or walking, cheapen mass transit, or [somehow!] use it to alter zoning laws to encourage more mixed use space that results in fewer people having to drive to work in the first place.

    In most ways, increasing road capacity by scheduling/information isn't much different than increasing capacity by adding a lane. It's great for a while, but then we see traffic again. More capacity invites more cars. Maximizing "ef
    • by FooAtWFU (699187)
      As long as you're building capacity, though, shouldn't you try to optimize your network to be as effectively used as possible?

      Making it more convenient/cheaper to drive a car will always result in more cars on the road, not fewer.

      Having more people in an area will result in more cars on the road. In many areas not struggling with their own success, and in which public transportation availability is very poor and limited, making it convenient and cheaper to drive a car just makes it more convenient/cheaper to live life. So, the SF Bay Area won't see the end of their woes with this, but you might have better

      • by stomv (80392)

        Having more people in an area will result in more cars on the road.

        See Manhattan Island for counterargument. Once you get a high enough population density -- especially with mixed zoning -- cars just aren't needed. People walk to the grocery store [or eat out]. They take mass transit to/fro work. Once you get that critical mass, the number of cars per capita, and perhaps even the aggregate number of cars, can decrease.

        Making changes to society to encourage auto alternatives will have a greater influence

        • by FooAtWFU (699187)

          Having more people in an area will result in more cars on the road.

          See Manhattan Island for counterargument. Once you get a high enough population density -- especially with mixed zoning -- cars just aren't needed. People walk to the grocery store [or eat out]. They take mass transit to/fro work. Once you get that critical mass, the number of cars per capita, and perhaps even the aggregate number of cars, can decrease.

          Making changes to society to encourage auto alternatives will have a greater influence in, say, Greensboro than in SF Bay where they've already got fairly good transit.

          The point about Manhattan is true. However, in Greensboro, you can easily find an average one-bedroom apartment for about $500/mo. In places like San Francisco (and presumably Manhattan), you can find a slightly-small one-bedroom apartment for closer to $1500/mo. (Like mine. Actually, I could have gone a little more suburban and less public-transit-y/more car-y for $1300ish, but I didn't.) I'm not sure that most people in Greensboro would appreciate that sort of price differential very much, Public Transpo

        • by Dun Malg (230075)

          Once you get a high enough population density -- especially with mixed zoning -- cars just aren't needed. People walk to the grocery store [or eat out]. They take mass transit to/fro work. Once you get that critical mass, the number of cars per capita, and perhaps even the aggregate number of cars, can decrease.

          People whose only experience with large cities consists of old cities, like New York, which reached "high enough population density" more than 100 years ago don't understand the nature of the problem. The only reason New York is hospitable to mass transit is that it was built essentially as a pedestrian city. In the 19th and 18th centuries, neighborhoods required shopping within walking distance, as keeping a horse within the city was something that "regular folks" couldn't really afford. Fast forward to t

          • Washington DC. Their subway system was built about 40ish years ago, and 100 years ago Washington DC was a swamp with a few Senators. Sure, that's a special case too, but all cities are special cases. Your point about city planning 100 years ago is a fair one, but I suspect that the problem is that nobody is willing to invest in permanent mass transit without the density, and you just can't get the density without the mass transit.

            That's what I mean about making changes to society. You don't have to forc
  • I've always found traffic reports on local radio to work well. It goes like this:

    (1) Local radio says "there's a jam at such-and-such".

    (2) I adjust my route in order to go directly through such-and-such.

    (3) I get a clear run because by the time I get there the original problem has cleared, and everybody else has avoided the place having heard about it on the radio.
  • So when the major routes are too congested, it'll start telling all the people to take a back road, thus immediately congesting that "less traveled" back route.

    I dunna think this is gonna work.

    Traffic speed is less a factor of number of cars on a stretch of road, more of number of cars trying to make a decision. (change lanes, exit, enter)

    Think automated traffic cameras at merge areas, ticket people who get out of line, race up and cut back in line. Automated systems fire directed sound when you're less th
  • I think the EasyWiFi technology that they had to develop in order to get this to work is actually the cooler aspect of this project, especially since its compatible with normal WiFi hotspots.

    I could see it becoming a handy addition to any Wifi setup for a mobile device.
  • Hello I am looking to purchase a Viewsat [totalfta.com] FTA receiver. Does anyone know anything about them? Also, can you recommend a good retailer to purchase one? I have been looking at this for a while but have to admit I'm kind of lost.
  • And they revealed that the way to fight traffic congestion is by taking the bus or living closer to your work. I'm going to toss the piece of shit because that wasn't what I wanted to hear.
  • How many of you read that as "MIT Researchers Fight Grimlock with Linux"? That would be so cool...
  • I mean seriously, once upon a time... way back in late ninety something, if a device shipped with linux at its based, the presence of Linux on the device was as important as the application of the device itself. In modern times, pretty much everything imaginable runs Linux, so these days, having to say "QNX Device" or "Vxworks device" is more interesting since it might show a shift away from Linux.

    I feel it really takes away from the merits of the researchers that have developed the extensive applications o

Say "twenty-three-skiddoo" to logout.

Working...