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Cell Phones Linked to Track Real-Time Traffic

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The Mobile Millennium trial, a real-time wireless traffic network for San Francisco, launched this month and will link together GSM-based cell phones equipped with special software. The pilot project, which hopes to have 10,000 participants by April, will be a real-world test of the technology used in the Mobile Century trial last February, which, like the new trial, was a partnership of Nokia; the University of California, Berkeley; the California Department of Transportation; Navteq; Safetrip-21; and the Center for Information Technology Research in the Interest of Society (CITRIS). The Web site already provides real-time traffic information in the region based on data from FastTrak transponders, which are used for paying bridge tolls. The cell phone-based method will be less expensive and will not be limited to major freeway infrastructure. Organizers say the Mobile Millennium project will focus at first on commuters who drive between the Bay Area and the Lake Tahoe ski area, with the first phase limited to highways while later phases will add arterial routes. The software used for Mobile Millennium is called Virtual Trip Lines, which organizers called "a data sampling paradigm that anonymizes the GPS-based position information and aggregates it into a single data stream." This data is combined with other traffic data and then broadcast back to the phones and the Internet. A customized urban-focused version of the system, which models traffic in lower Manhattan, also is under development.

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