Updated Feb, 10th 2013
I've had my only little cloudstorm this week asking practically everyone I run into what's the part of traffic they hate most. Some say the stopping and starting. Others say the time lost that could be used on other things. In most cases, everyone has pretty much accepted it as a way of life.
But you know what else has quickly been accepted as a way of life? Smartphones and GPS. We have adopted them into our lives, we love them, we need them.
So my suggestion for reducing traffic congestion is to make "supersmart GPS."
How is supersmart GPS different than current pretty-smart GPS? Well, supersmart GPS would be able to receive and interpret technology already used to monitor traffic -- cameras or satellites that capture traffic patterns -- to gauge the pace of traffic on roads. And by allowing GPS systems to speak to each other, the systems can keep track of how many people are already on or are accessing the roads at any given time.
How does this benefit drivers? When they get into their cars, before driving, they first input their destination into their GPS. With supersmart GPS, they then add the qualifier -- LENGTH OF TIME willing to travel to get to a destination. From that point, the GPS can map out a route that may be longer in distance, but shorter in time when accounting not for the speed limit of the road, but for the actual real-time pace of traffic.
Because the GPS systems are so interconnected, they can avoid putting too many people on any given road, or offer detours if some spots start to slow down.
As someone who would rather be going the long way if it means avoiding standing still, I'm willing to do that.
For others who insist on going the direct route, the smart systems should be able to direct drivers to increase their travel time expectations or to change their departure time.
Knowing in advance the length of time it will take to go a certain route at a given hour -- not just through estimation, but actual real-time accounting -- will allow people to determine the value of their time, and will soon teach commuters which alternate routes -- perhaps including existing public transit -- are faster. They will then modify their behaviors -- and the traffic flow -- accordingly.