Previously, I had been involved in a few projects involving Intelligent Transportation Systems - and yet, it still amazes me how far behind we are in terms of even basic approaches. Last night, I was stuck in traffic due to an unfortunate accident ahead on the roadway. My immediate observations: A state trooper was sitting on the side of the road, with his mandate to alert drivers and monitor the end of the queue for problems. However, where he was situated, as so often happens, was past the last exit available where motorists could get off the interstate and find an alternative.
Had he been situated ahead of that last exit, I and so many other motorists with onboard GPS could quite easily have hit our "DETOUR" buttons and navigated around the congestion rather than end up in the midst of it. But instead, we end up stuck, and the congestion and queue only grows and grows. Poor congestion management.
Secondly, a police cruiser sitting on the side of the road certainly alerts drivers of something. However, it doesn't give any specificity whatsoever. Perhaps, it was just that the trooper stopped a speeder, et cetera. Often they are sitting well behind the congestion queue, and sometimes it's not immediately evident that there is congestion ahead. Opportunity for informing motorists is lost, and the situation is not mitigated and managed as well as it could be.
It would seem to me that there are any number of relatively simple ways to address and mitigate congestion as a result of an accident or other similar traffic event - we certainly have ample technologies available. For example, a portable variable message board that could rapidly be deployed by troopers (as in the photo), or other alerts. There are numerous Variable Message Sign (VMS) boards along interstate corridors, yet amazingly, to this day, they still are largely uncoordinated, where messaging is not propagated along the corridor across district or state boundaries. Highway officials still seem to not recognize that roadways are functionally networks, that internal administrative boundaries are not appropriate barriers as far as motorists are concerned.
It would also seem that protocols like CAP messaging, GeoRSS and others could and should be leveraged, and combined with very simple, wireless digital broadcast technologies, aligned to highway advisory radio beacon broadcasts, to provide simple, low-cost means of transmitting location-based information to in-dash receivers, GPS units and so on. Certainly some such systems exist, however via subscription, or at additional cost to the price of the receivers, and so on - however, perhaps a better business model for such as broadcast system could operate via public-private partnerships, where operators of hotels, restaurants and amenities could fund the system by providing basic information about available attractions and amenities when there are no highway incidents. A perfect case for Location-based service (LBS) technologies. This does not have to be a costly, complicated thing. We already have all of the ingredients and have had them for several years.