It is well accepted that traffic problems cannot be solved by single solutions. Depending on the exact nature of the problem different approaches have been followed in cities all over the world: decreasing the number of cars entering the city; upgrading public transportation quality and quantity; creating parking areas near city limits, where public transports have pick up points; creating alternative external routes for passing traffic.
Traffic information systems differ in their approaches. They may be a radio or TV station diffusing information provided by the traffic police or in other cases, information is given on demand via phone or Minitel. On board equipment for traffic data reception is still expensive and their market penetration is thus far minimal. Recently traffic information systems that allow the broadcasting of news about traffic to drivers, are making it possible to avoid points of congestion, and so balance the amount of vehicles in the city streets and access roads. Also, recent developments in telecommunication and in automatic monitoring by vision systems, could make it possible to integrate several ways of capturing traffic and broadcast information.
The objective of this project was to integrate these tools, creating a Traffic Information Observatory, broadcasting the validated information to users. The advantages with the integration of these tools are the accurate, up-to-date knowledge transmitted to the users, and the low cost for acquisition and broadcasting of information. Since the transmission channels are available, no infrastructure is necessary therefore lowering system cost.
The project planned to use several new features in telecommunications, such as the Short Messages Service (SMS), to capture automatically information from sensors placed at critical points throughout the city and its accesses. This new service allows fast transmission of data. After being processed and validated in the Observatory through a combination of Geographical Information Systems (GIS) and human operation; it will transmit information to users through GSM/SMS for direct reception by phone handsets. This solution will take advantage of the many thousands of mobile phones currently in operation in Europe.