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Traffic Info Any Way, Anytime, Anywhere

Technology Will Assist Motorists

Asst. Prof. Tzu-Yang Yu

By Edwin L. Aguirre

Wouldn’t it be great to get real-time alerts about traffic flare-ups ahead on the road?  UMass researchers are helping make that technology possible.

Called Anytime-Anywhere-Anyway (AAA) Transportation Information, the system will alert drivers through their mobile devices of any traffic congestion due to accidents, road construction or weather. The project recently received a one-year $100,000 seed grant from the UMass Science & Technology Office.

Researchers from the Lowell, Dartmouth, Amherst and Boston campuses are collaborating on the project.

“People spend enormous amounts of time and money on daily commute and holiday travel,” says civil engineering Asst. Prof. Tzu-Yang Yu, who is the project’s co-principal investigator for UMass Lowell. “With the AAA system, we can provide drivers traffic information 24 hours a day, seven days a week that can save them thousands of dollars in fuel and, most importantly, time.”

This holiday season, about 85.7 million will be traveling by car, according to the American Automobile Association.

The team plans to integrate hardware (a wireless network of underground/surface road sensors) with software (an intelligent transportation system) to seamlessly deliver traffic data through secure multimedia communications, including the Internet.

“For instance, if someone is on his way from Boston to New York to visit his parents for Christmas and there is scheduled construction activity or a vehicular emergency on the road, with AAA transportation technology this person can receive detour options so he won’t end up spending excessive time behind the wheel and missing the Christmas gathering with his family,” says Yu.

He notes that the use of hand-held cell phones while driving is restricted in several states, including Massachusetts.

“This is why we don’t want to use cell phones alone as the information channel,” he says. “Other mobile devices, such as GPS, can be used without jeopardizing safety and violating the law.”