• Apr 14, 2008
Eric Horvitz is the president of the Association for the Advancement of Artificial Intelligence, as well as being an AI researcher at Microsoft. When stuck in traffic one day in Seattle, he asked his nav system to reroute him via side streets, and the result was worse than being stuck on the highway. That incident turned into four years of research and data collection on traffic patterns to create the Clearflow traffic avoidance system for Microsoft's web portal-based Live Search Maps.

The point of Clearflow is to provide accurate route information that gives you the best chance to avoid traffic on highways and on the side streets. By logging data from 16,500 trips over 125,000 miles, Microsoft engineers came up with algorithms to predict traffic flow on highways and adjacent streets, the latter of which can be even more crowded than the main arteries.

Using the data collected in Seattle, along with the results from highway sensors, the system works for 72 cities, and can "predict congestion based on time of day, weather and other variables like sporting events." Clearflow went live Thursday, April 10, with the choice to "Choose route based on traffic".

[Source: New York Times]


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  • 13 Comments
      • 6 Years Ago
      This is a good idea and a good step towards more refined mapping.
      • 6 Years Ago
      Sounds like a good idea if people can be given advance warning of traffic snarls so that they know which routes to avoid.
      • 6 Years Ago


      Can Clearflow predict traffic accidents, flat tires, left lane diddlers, and drive-by shootings?
        • 6 Years Ago
        It can't predict them, but can route around them, provided the traffic sensors pick up the data and update them promptly.
      • 6 Years Ago
      Microsoft? And what happens when you get the 'blue screen of death'?
        • 6 Years Ago
        That's reserved for calamities, like a terrorist attack.
      • 6 Years Ago
      By using data collected in Seattle, they can predict the traffic on the streets around my house? I smell hype.

      NAV systems don't even know that there's a divider on the road at one end of my street and so you can't turn into it from the east, or turn out of it to the west.

      The hard truth about NAV systems is that if you've lived in an area a while, you're better informed about the specifics of the area (including traffic) than the NAV is. What a NAV is great for is telling you how to get around an area you don't already know how to get around. And this doesn't appear to be any different, because they took data in Seattle (note, most of us don't live in Seattle) and are going to extrapolate information about other areas based upon that.
      • 6 Years Ago
      Wow, it's funny how they're talking about a newer system when they can't sort out the major mess in Garmin x80 nuvis a.k.a. "MSN life traffic feed".
      • 6 Years Ago
      IA has a long way to go in traffic and route planning, this sounds like a step in the right direction.

      It irks me when my GPS gives me a route but clearly doesn't take into account things like traffic lights or congestion based on time of day. You wouldn't even need a traffic monitoring serivce. it could just assume that at 5:30pm traffic on X major road will be heavy while at 2am it will be light.

      this sounds like a good move forward.
        • 6 Years Ago
        uggh... AI, not IA.
      • 6 Years Ago

      There is a saying. Artificial intelligence is no match for natural stupidity.
      • 6 Years Ago
      If only it lived up to its press release billing. I ask it for a route from Elgin, IL to northwest Indiana in the mid-afternoon. The prudent choice would be to take I90 to I294, possibly using I290 in between. It's recomendation? Go straight through downtown Chicago in the face of the impending afternoon rush hour. This common mapquest/google maps mistake will cost you 2 to 3 hours. Seriously, how much sense does that make? Back to the drawing board, boys.
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