Detour ahead: Using futuristic car technology to predict (and avoid) traffic

Up to 88% of those surveyed said they would be interested in an in-car system that can predict future traffic conditions. Stuck in traffic on a recent vacation, I found myself pining for this. Emerging technology should proactively take these conditions into account – as well as my personal preferences – to provide better route recommendations.
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Drivers wouldn’t have to spend so much time stuck in traffic jams if they had the right contextually-aware infotainment system

I just returned from our family skiing vacation, a wonderful week in the Austrian Alps. The only grain of salt was the 11 hours’ drive back, partly stuck in various traffic jams. The good side: It gave me plenty of time to think about the experience I wanted when in my car:

I found myself asking, how could the driving experience have been if I had an automotive assistant leveraging all the available information to help advise me when planning my return trip?

First, it could have warned me to leave earlier. Although my family enjoys sleeping late and having a leisurely breakfast, we would voluntarily have gotten up earlier if we knew that it would have saved us a few hours of traffic jam. The automotive assistant should have anticipated the traffic conditions the evening before by leveraging historic traffic information from content providers and big knowledge data such as local school vacations. And of course, it should have warned me the evening before by sending me an alert to my smartphone. A survey conducted by Strategy Analytics reveals that I’m not alone: 77% of consumers in Europe, 72% in the US and 88% in China were very or somewhat interested in a system that can predict future traffic. Surprisingly the interest is higher in Europe, where consumers traditionally have more concerns about sharing personal data, and it’s equally high across all ages.

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It’s not surprising that the interest is highest in China, as traffic conditions can be very tough in large cities. However, I found it somewhat surprising that the interest amongst European drivers was even higher than amongst US drivers, despite the fact that European consumers traditionally have more concerns about sharing personal data. The perceived value of better traffic information is clearly quite high.

The second ‘surprise’ that I could have done without was the fact that my navigation system’s recommendation to optimize the route took me through Switzerland – without even notifying me. Switzerland is a wonderful country, there might have been a bit less traffic than on the original route, but we had to pay an extra 40 Swiss Francs for a vignette (road toll), required to use the Swiss highways. The combination of ‘big knowledge’ (price of Swiss toll vignette), my personal level of price sensitivity, and the expected reduction of travel time should result in a recommendation addressing my personal needs. I would probably have opted for the detour and additional cost if it saved me a full hour, but probably not for 15 minutes.

A more intelligent traffic information system would have been great taking into account not only the current traffic situation, but actively planning the routes of all drivers. Ideally, the cars would be connected to each other as well as to smart city grids; they would have communicated with each other and negotiated who is taking which re-route. My personal impression was that everyone was using the same navigation and traffic system recommending the same reroute options, which basically resulted in a rerouting of the traffic jam. Clearly, there needs to be a better solution.

Not surprisingly, these are some of the key features that our colleagues defined for the Dragon Drive Automotive Assistant. They must have spent some time in traffic, too.  🙂

Ready to let traffic take a backseat?

Contextually-aware infotainment systems leverage ‘big knowledge’ to help predict and route drivers around traffic. Learn more about Dragon Drive, our award-winning connected car platform.

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About Fatima Vital

Fatima oversees Nuance’s global automotive and consumer electronics marketing programs, serving as the lead on solutions like Nuance’s popular Dragon Drive platform. Fatima has been with Nuance for over a decade, originally joining the company in February of 2003. Prior to her time at Nuance, Fatima’s early career included her working as a marketing director at Philips, with a focus on speech recognition solutions. Originally from Portugal and now residing in Germany, Fatima graduated from University of Siegen in Germany with a degree focused in business, marketing and finance. In her spare time, Fatima enjoys spending time with family and friends and is an active runner, skier and hiker.