Amsterdam traffic controllers offer commuters personalized route advice

Dutch traffic control will use a mobile app to control traffic flows and keep things moving on Amsterdam's busy roads

The ADAM app shows travel times voor several alternative routes to home or work

The ADAM app shows travel times voor several alternative routes to home or work

Ever get stuck in your daily commute? That happens to people in Amsterdam too. But with a new smartphone app that provides free personal route advice based on the latest traffic conditions, Dutch commuters could soon be avoiding annoying traffic jams on their way home.

The app, called ADAM, allows daily commuters in the Amsterdam area to hand pick several routes between home and work. Current travel times for each route will be displayed in the app, giving a user the chance to pick the best one before leaving.

The traffic information comes directly from traffic control centers in the region, which will also be able to use data from the pool of app users to regulate traffic flows, said Patrick Potgraven, a spokesman for the Traffic Information Service, VID.

If an accident causes a partial roadblock, the traffic control center can advise a portion of the app users to take an alternative route. By splitting up traffic flows, cars will be able to keep moving on one lane near the accident while alternative routes won't congest either. This does mean that sometimes people will be advised to use a route that will take a couple of minutes longer, but it will mean that traffic will keep flowing meaning less congestion overall, eventually offering a better commute for all drivers, Potgraven said.

This way of combining traffic information with traffic management has already attracted some interest from other countries, especially in Asia where China and Taiwan showed interest in the technology, Potgraven said.

First, though, the system needs to prove itself in Amsterdam. A test with the app will start next week and the VID, working with the city of Amsterdam and other local authorities, hopes to attract about 10,000 users to test the app in the next six months.

The app will only be available for iOS and Android; there will be no version for BlackBerry nor Windows Phone.

While a lot of drivers already use a GPS navigation device in their cars to find their way around the country's busy roads, ADAM differs from those systems in important ways.

First of all, ADAM does not offer turn-by-turn navigation, though it shows the selected route on a Google map rendering within the app. The makers assume that since you are a local you know the several alternatives to drive to home or work. They want to provide commuters with the most relevant information, which is the quickest route at the current moment, Potgraven said.

Services like TomTom and Google Maps do show traffic jams in their apps based on the number of people who are using the services at the same time on a particular stretch of road. They also offer alternative routes around congested areas.

However, the people behind ADAM believe that daily commuters are not interested in one alternative route that might take them through several backroads or residential areas. Those routes often look like the quickest alternative but could turn out to be less than ideal in real life, Potgraven said.

Within the app, users can also check out live images from traffic cams that are plotted on a Google Map. Moreover, traffic control can also communicate with users, alerting them to how long it will take before a traffic jam will dissolve.

People can also report issues to traffic control. If there is, for example, a cow on the road a driver can send an audio message along with their GPS location to traffic control, Potgraven said, adding that those messages will first be moderated before they reach traffic control to filter out irrelevant messages.

When the test is completed, the project will be evaluated and could be rolled out to other places in the Netherlands.

Loek is Amsterdam Correspondent and covers online privacy, intellectual property, online payment issues as well as EU technology policy and regulation for the IDG News Service. Follow him on Twitter at @loekessers or email tips and comments to loek_essers@idg.com

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