Google is turning some of its attention to helping cities tackle urban mobility problems by using some of the vast amounts of data it collects. They’ve already been working on some pilot programmes in cities in Europe. In their blog post about the work they highlight one such example from the Netherlands

It’s still early days, but preliminary results have been positive. In the Netherlands, TNO ran tests on a 10km stretch of highway that regularly faces traffic jams, using our anonymized traffic statistics instead of physical road sensors. They found that they could still accurately detect traffic jams at the right moment and at the correct location on the road without the sensors, potentially saving 50K Euro per year if the redundant sensors were removed. Other pilots are starting to show similarly positive results.

They’ve put together a little video talking about what they’re doing.

Traffic congestion in urban areas wastes time, fuel, causes air pollution, and generally increases the cost of living. So with cities and research partners, we began exploring how traffic information could be used to improve urban mobility for everyone.

In a series of pilot projects we are working together to minimize traffic congestion, speed up journeys, improve safety, and reduce the amount of money spent on infrastructure. We’re excited by the promise that these initial projects have shown and pleased to announce that we’re expanding our pilot programme.

Perhaps Auckland Transport and/or the NZTA should consider looking at this. Do you have any suggestions as to what they could use data from google for?

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  1. How about using google data to monitor the speeds of people walking, cycling and driving through the city, to ensure that our infrastructure such as traffic lights etc is set up to provide the best flow and least hold ups for people, irrespective of their mode of travel?

    My understanding is that their data from people’s phones should be able to show how long it takes people to travel a particular route and what hold ups occurred on the way.

    i.e. 50 people being held up for 30 seconds on Queen St while cars containing 10 people drive past is clearly not providing good flow.

  2. My concern would be that Google is a private company with a primary goal of making a profit.

    While the data might be useful, there will always be a price to pay.

    Google is already notorious for stealing data from public sources and using it to drive revenue through ad sales (e.g. the infamous book scanning debacle)

    If Google could guarantee that it wouldn’t profit in any way, then sure

  3. This is the type of work Qrious (a Spark digital venture) are doing afaik.

    So far their main ‘published’ work has been about the stadium rejig, and how the Warriors moving to the North Shore won’t actual affect fans as travel distance for those going to Mt Smart would be similar to North Harbour Stadium.

  4. We’ll see how it goes. But ambient spatial intelligence and decentralsied spatial computing technologies have the potential to allow for wide ranging — and detailed — movement/urban analytics. Perhaps more importantly, these technologies can achieve all this while retaining a good level of privacy.

    But I doubt we’ll see someone like Google promoting any of that, mind. It would require them to relinquish control of data to users, instead of hoarding it all away like a digital Smaug.

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