What cures traffic jams? Supply and demand!

At least that’s what researchers at the University of Texas at Austin are claiming. Their idea is to use some combination of GPS or RFID to track then cars enter into a congestion area. If vehicles enter during peak times, they would have to pay more in tolls than if they go through off-peak times. So drive into work at 8:00am? Pay $.25 per mile. Drive into work at 2:00am? It’s only $.10 per mile.

It’s an interesting idea, but I personally worry about a couple of things. Ultimately, what happens to all the data people collect about where I’m going when? What would keep outside parties from having access to that data? Finally, I’m not sure driving times are really responsive to market forces. I can’t easily choose an entry time more economical to my budget because, well, my employer says I have to be into work by 9:00am or get fired. If you triple the toll during that natural travel time, I’ll just have to pay triple. Unless my employer allows for complete hours flexibility, I’m not sure this is going to have much of a real impact (other than better roads from increased toll incomes).

CyberTracker, animal tracking for everyone

Listener Jody pointed out a great project that was highlighted on last weeks Living on Earth. CyberTracker allows anyone to capture information, including location, about animal movements. The software uses an interface that can be used by anyone from non-literate bushman to wildlife agents on a simple mobile hardware platform. The software is freely downloadable if you would like to take a look and be sure to check out July 21, 2006 episode of Living on Earth around the 32 minute mark for a great story about CyberTracker.

Watch Boats In Real Time

This site, although still in beta, shows boat traffic in the San Francisco bay in real time. You can see different boats and ships move around the bay over the course of a half an hour. There’s a handy speed adjustment to make them move faster or slower. If you move your pointer over one of the arrows, you can get information about the boats movement speed, size, and destination. If you click on the table below the map, you can watch individual ships move about.

I’m of three or four minds about this site. On the one hand, I think it’s a pretty cool implementation of real-time data. On the other hand, it’s kinda scary what you can find out in real-time. And on the third hand its just cool to watch!

Satellite Navigation for the visually impaired

ESA News has a really interesting article about a prototype satellite navigation system for the visually impaired that was successfully tested in Madrid, Spain. The system uses a mobile phone with a location receiver and a voice synthesizer. The phone’s position is tracked accurately enough to give turn-by-turn directions in an urban setting, which are relayed through a voice synthesizer and into a set of headphones. However, the test subject still had a service dog, since conditions like other people on the street or passing cars would have to be dealt with. Still, it’s a pretty cool and useful application of navigation technology

Henry Rollins on GPS and tech

I am a huge admirer of Henry Rollins, from Black Flag to Rollins Band, from spoken word to his show on IFC, he has simply gotten better with time. This past weekends episode of the Henry Rollins Show kicked off with a section on the impact of technology on our lives including an unbridled monologue on GPS in our day-to-day lives. If you don’t have IFC you can head over to their website and watch the “Teeing Off” diatribe from Episode 6 online at http://henryrollins.ifc.com/episodes/guide.jsp (explicit language)

Where’s Tim?

Tim lives in Lawerence, Kansas. He likes to travel. For instance, last tuesday, Tim traveled 103.25 miles to Prairie Village Kansas. How do I know this? Because Tim uploads his GPS location every 15 minutes and posts it on his Google Map! You can download the data into Google Earth and watch where Tim goes throughout his day. You can even do a flythrough of Tim’s daily route. Personally, I don’t think I’d like people to know where I go, but Tim doesn’t mind because he works for EnGraph, which makes GPS tracking software. It’s rather the perfect marketing tool, I guess.

UPDATE: Tim called (Thanks Tim!) to let us know that the data is actually updated every 15 seconds, not minutes. That’s even more impressive! Sorry I missed that (at least it shows we do check our voicemail).

Via Google Earth Blog

Getting there is half the fun

The New Yorker recently ran an interesting article entitled Annals of the Road: Getting There that looks at maps and mapping technologies from a few angles including riding in a Navteq ground-truthing vehicle. A different perspective than what you normally get as someone in the industry and well researched. An interesting read, but be sure to set aside a solid 10-15 minutes since it is a New Yorker article :-).

Thanks to listener, and winner of our 1/2 year contest, Adella for the ‘heads-up’ and for sending Frank an email.

GPS Visualizer

Here’s a pretty cool free application for anyone heavily into using your GPS unit. You can upload your GPS data to via typing in coordinates, street addresses, or uploading a file, and this tool will output a map showing your route. The really cool thing is that you can output to a pretty decent set of file types, including jpeg, PMG, and even KML files for use in Google Earth! It looks like the development team is adding features hand over fist, so it would definately be worthwhile to keep an eye on this program’s development.