IBM’s Smarter Traveler Hopes to Prevent Drivers From Getting Stuck in Traffic

No one likes wasting time and money sitting in traffic. Did you know that due to traffic congestion in the US, most people waste an average of a week’s worth of time, 28 gallons of gas and $808 over the course of a year? With IBM’s new Smarter Traveler Research Initiative, wasting time and gas sitting in traffic may become a thing of the past.

Yesterday IBM (NYSE: IBM) announced a  joint initiative with the California Department of Transportation and the California Center for Innovative Transportation, to develop an intelligent transportation solution that will help commuters avoid congestion and enable transportation agencies to better understand, predict and manage traffic flow.

Even with advances in GPS system navigation, real-time traffic alerts and mapping, daily commute times are often unreliable, and relevant updates on how to avoid congestion often reach drivers when they are already stuck in traffic and it is too late to change course. This problem is what led IBM researchers to develop their new project, called Smarter Traveler. The Smarter Traveler system is going to collect and analyze traffic data from over 1,000  sensors already embedded in the cement at toll booths, bridges, roads and intersections in the San Francisco Bay area.

The difference with this technology is that it first memorizes the driver’s customary routes and then predicts when congestion might develop on one of them, giving greater advance notice. This unique project combines that data with locations based on GPS tracking sensors in participating people’s cell phones to learn their preferred travel days and routes.

Alerts are then automatically delivered via email or text message on the status of the driver’s typical commute before the trip begins, which eliminates potential driver distraction once the trip is in progress. These alerts will enable drivers to plan and share alternative travel routes, improve traveler safety and help transportation authorities better predict and reduce bumper-to-bumper traffic before congestion occurs through improved traffic signal timing, ramp metering and route planning.

To complete development of the Smarter Traveler system, IBM researchers will use a learning and predictive-analytics tool called the Traffic Prediction Tool. Using the traffic prediction tool,  transportation agencies and city planners in the future will be able to proactively design, manage and optimize transportation systems to more seamlessly handle the ever-increasing traffic that results from population growth and increasing urbanization.


If you own or manage a fleet of vehicles, every time a driver gets stuck in traffic, it costs you time and money.  A modern fleet management system can reduce your company’s fuel and labor costs, improve customer service, reduce vehicle emissions. A good telematics-based vehicle tracking system uses predictive analytics to improve driving habits that waste time and money.