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traffic agents

Exploration of "what if?" scenarios in traffic.
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Driving through any big city where traffic is heavy there are always choices to be made (Big decisions like "Should I go across Wandsworth Bridge, up Wandsworth Bridge Road, down King's Road, along the Embankment, cut through to Buckingham Palace Road and go down the Mall or should I go along Battersea Park Road, down to New Covent Garden, Nine Elms, cross the river at Vauxhall, and go up Millbank and Whitehall?" and small decisions like "Should I change lanes here?"). You always want to drive the optimum route to your destination - it's as if you're in a race with a mythical, perfect driver who always makes lane changes at the right time and always picks the right route. So my idea is to have, with the cooperation of video cameras covering all city streets (which nearly exist in London anyway) and traffic monitors in the road, the ability to dispatch agents to make some of these choices so that you can later review them and learn from their experiences ("Aha! The fastest way through the Wandsworth one-way system is by staying in the right-hand lane") or revel in your cleverness at having chosen a better route for yourself than the one you chose for your agent.
hippo, Jul 10 2000

speed maps http://www.halfbake...m/idea/speed_20maps
[egnor, Jul 10 2000, last modified Oct 17 2004]

turn maps http://www.halfbake...om/idea/turn_20maps
[egnor, Jul 10 2000, last modified Oct 17 2004]

Mobility http://www.mobility-online.de/en/
Only to be played by extreme geeks like me. [rapid transit, Oct 05 2004, last modified Oct 21 2004]

Only 15 years late... http://xkcd.com/1580/
[hippo, Sep 22 2015]


       I'm forever wondering if the other route might have spared me a lot of a waiting or if my wrong turn actually worked to my benefit.
centauri, Jul 10 2000

       How about a technology that allows you to exist in a superposition of quantum states, so that you could try all the possible routes simultaneously?
dominus, Jul 10 2000

       great, just what we need, more traffic. Why make a journey once when you could make it several times? Get a life, get a taxi.
rikbie, Jul 11 2000

       No, no, no - there wouldn't be any additional traffic! These agents would travel through a virtual city built up from detailed roadmaps and traffic flow data. If anything the educational aspect of this idea would lead to there being less traffic.
hippo, Jul 11 2000

       oh. ok then. ahem. sorry.
rikbie, Jul 12 2000

       quite alright rikbie, I should have explained it better.
hippo, Jul 12 2000

       I had the same idea awhile ago sitting in traffic. But I imagined that all cars would be equipped with GPS and a tracking database would be able to analyze traffic patterns. I'm sure it'll be done once all those on-board GPS devices for cars are common.....
mhh5, Nov 16 2000

       Have thought of this as well-Using electronic Traffic monitors via a Grid based flow counter with optimum levels on preset. If flow is above or below, status is indicated red or green, etc.. I drive at least 80 miles a day in Los Angeles. 60 of which are on City Streets. SO many shortcuts are missed by typical drivers sticking to "name-brand" streets. Like a river, there are tributaries, and one must be like water-taking the path of least resistance. Just common sense. Helps to have a turbocharger, too.
thumbwax, Nov 17 2000

       Oh yeah, I think now that cell phones are nearly ubiquitous, mobile phone companies *could* triangulate your position and speed and figure out this traffic data if they really wanted to....
mhh5, Jul 02 2001

       Why don't people get this idea? There's no need for GPS or tracking your car with cell-phone technology with this idea. The whole point is that your 'agent' traves througha virtual city built up from data from traffic monitoring devices to see which is the fastest route.
hippo, Jul 02 2001

       I don't think people understand how the agent knows where it is in the virtual city when you dispatch it at Wandsworth bridge. At least one of them doesn't. (You must be giving it its starting-point and destination on the road? But then you can't specify your location precisely enough to race the agent even if you happen to know roughly where you are. Or can the cameras and monitors identify the car and give it its location, or the car identify the nearest monitor and look it up?)   

       I think that Cell-phones and GPS were just suggested as an alternative to the cameras and monitors, anyway.   

       Other confusion might have been caused by readers mistakenly assuming that this is a "find the best route" idea, which it doesn't seem to be, having more to do with amusing drivers, satisfying their curiosity, and letting them gradually learn new short-cuts. (Because: If you have a database of traffic pattens, why dispatch a single agent rather than using some sort of route-finding algorithm? If you have cameras everywhere, why not do the same thing in real-time and just generate a map of the best route at the moment?)   

       (Sorry if I've misunderstood too.)
Monkfish, Jul 02 2001

       Cities already monitor the flow of traffic through myriad sensors and cameras. Often, they're the only ones who have access to this information, for lack of a way to disseminate it. Those massive road conditions billboards that loom above the pavement get the word out to an extent, but only in a highly generalized way. If this could be personalized, it'd be a boon to drivers.   

       A simple cellphone call with your location to a central location could provide you with a suggested route. Exact location need not be neccessary. Possibly a small fee charged monthly for the service. Or maybe a specialized hands-free two-way radio for the purpose, allowing voice activated prompting to speak out the route plan again.   

       This is actually a feature in a traffic simulation game called Mobiity. Neat little program.
rapid transit, May 19 2003

       Just get the sky car : www.moller.com
DeusExMachina, Nov 13 2003

       XKCD have posted this idea as a cartoon!
hippo, Sep 22 2015


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