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Kid meets GPS

I was driving somewhere the other day with my son in the car (he’s four). I didn’t know the location and typed it into the GPS. I’d never used it with him in the car before. He stared intently, realizing that it was a map of where we were, the roads, and where we were going. For the whole 20 minute trip, he was enthralled with it. Finally, he asked me Daddy, why aren’t the other cars on there?

And I laughed.

Then I wondered exactly what percentage of cars actually have GPS systems? I’d say quite a few. And if the GPS systems transmit as well as receive? Mine transmits since it’s a Droid. Then it occurred to me that if cars with GPS systems transmitted their location, then someone could use that information for live traffic reporting. A bunch of GPS systems in one spot would indicate a problem.

Technology is kinda scary.

21 Responses to “Kid meets GPS”

  1. TomcatsHanger Says:

    how do you think Google traffic works?

  2. SayUncle Says:

    i didn’t know there was a google traffic.

  3. SayUncle Says:

    and it doesn’t work in my city.

  4. Jake Says:

    Considering all the “I am here” apps that already exist for Android, WebOS, and the iPhone, it’s not too far-fetched. The trickiest part would be processing that much data in something approaching real-time.

  5. Jake Says:

    And Google traffic doesn’t work in my city, either. Though it does cover the nearby interstate.

  6. Andrew Sarcus Says:

    Google gets it’s traffic data from cameras (as far as I know they are owned by the city or state).

    The problem with using cell data is: how can you tell if the phone is in a car or not?

  7. Steven Says:

    Google navigation takes into account state-owned traffic cameras AND feedback from google map users. Check your EULA, you’re agreeing to send back anonymized speed & location data when using their free navigation on android or mapping apps on non-android OSes (blackberry, symbian, and winmo at least). My android kept me off I-285 (great wall of atlanta) for as long as possible this morning…thankfully.

  8. dagamore Says:

    You know they do that right? at least here in europe some of the tomtom models do that for traffic. my 940 does, and i love it.

  9. Freiheit Says:

    “Then it occurred to me that if cars with GPS systems transmitted their location, then someone could use that information for live traffic reporting. A bunch of GPS systems in one spot would indicate a problem.”

    Close, very very close to what’s used with many traffic reporting systems now. Its currently done using cellular towers.

    In simple terms your phone chatters with a cell tower. When one towers signal gets weaker than another tower, your phone switches to the other tower. If your phone is switching from tower to tower fairly quickly, we can get a rough idea of how fast you’re moving.

    So now if you have towers near a freeway, and you have many many cell phones chattering with those towers you can tell how many people are in a given area and how fast they’re moving.

    Its not perfect, but its a damn good indicator of congestion.

  10. homebru Says:

    Simple answer: because nobody has figured out how to make money off it.

  11. Ian Argent Says:

    This is already happening with some GPS services(typically, this is called “crowdsourcing”). The latest version of VZNavigator asks you to transmit your location data for this, for example; and there was a standalone system that did this via off-board cellphone a couple years back.

    I had thought that google did this as well.

    Incidentally, check the “traffic” layer on Google Maps; on my (non-android) smartphone it shows traffic reports down to the local street level; and on streets that Bing Maps does not show traffic. (Caveat, I’m in the Greater NYC area).

  12. Ian Argent Says:

    Follow-up: My primary GPS app (CoPilot, which I heartily recommend and the FTC can KMA) charges $20/yr for access to their “live” service, which includes traffic data. I’m considering it.

  13. Bill Twist Says:

    Heh, ham radio operators have had that capability for going on 2 decades now. It’s called APRS. If you have a complete APRS setup in your car (instead of just a ‘tracker’), you can see all the other APRS stations in your vicinity (vicinity meaning within a couple hundred miles).

    If you want to see the future of communications technology, look at the cutting edge of ham radio today, then dumb it down and make it smaller.

  14. JKB Says:

    The maritime world has the Automated Information System (AIS) which takes the GPS feed along with other info and transmits it to other AIS units. It’s a good and bad situation although improvements were coming with integration into radar. But the early units were just tiny screens with lists of contacts by range. Problem is, in a place like off Galveston, you’d have a thousand contacts in the list but have to cycle through a dozen or so crew boats hanging off rigs to find the tanker coming out of the channel or container ship booming in behind you.

    Someone has however, set up receivers in some ports to provide the AIS data to subscribers who wish to watch the comings and goings of the ships in the harbor.

    BTW, GPS has no transmit capability in ground receivers. The field units receive the the GPS timing signals, calculate the position and then it can be transmitted by some other means from the unit, VHF radio, cell signal, comms sat, etc. If the unit can get live data other than the GPS position, it probably could transmit the position data out since the data would be tiny on the uplink.

  15. Phelps Says:

    Navigon units do this. My Navigon app on my iphone transmits speed info to the central db, which uses it to predict slowdowns (and route around them.)

  16. Chris Says:

    My 4 year old learned his left and right from our GPS.

  17. Jailer Says:

    Saw the title of your post and my first thought was the feds had snuck in and stuck a GPS tracker on your kids Big Wheel.

  18. Eric Says:

    Interesting thought. Your kid has never lived in a world without GPS (or cell phones, email, etc etc). I had just been assigned to the Air Force’s NAVSTAR GPS Joint Program Office when it was awarded the Collier Trophy for “for the most significant development for safe and efficient navigation and surveillance of air and spacecraft since the introduction of radio navigation 50 years ago.” That was in 1993. Heck I bought an original Macintosh in 1986 after I was already a full fledged computer geek. Guess I am getting old.

    “JKB says: The maritime world has the Automated Information System (AIS) …”

    I read someplace that the Somali pirates use this to find the ships they are going to hijack. Here’s a website listing some of the AIS displays available on the web:

    Sumpin’ to think about when you are broadcasting your position…

  19. Bearcat-7 Says:

    The local TV stations use this, along with the Honolulu
    City & County traffic cameras to give live updates.
    They also show the speed of the traffic along the roads.

    Yep. Big Bro is watching.

  20. Bob Dole Says:

    As usual the pundits trying to predict the scary new future, fall behind the times. This already happens.

  21. Lesane Says:

    More info, very interesting:
    “Inrix collects data from hundreds of sources, over 100,000 miles, including those gathered by the DOTs. Additionally, agreements are in place with fleet-management companies, such as airport shuttle services, taxis, gas utility, and home-repair companies, as well as long-haul trucking firms. These fleets all have GPS probes in every vehicle to keep track of the car or truck’s location.

    Most truckers send data between 6 a.m. and 8 p.m., while taxis and other public-service vehicles broadcast conditions around the clock. Inrix passes off routing and traffic information to the fleets—which manage nearly a million vehicles in total—to help them avoid traffic. In exchange, their vehicle GPS probes relay the road conditions back to Inrix. If needed, Inrix will pay some fleets for traffic data as part of a monthly or yearly contract.

    The company also uses cell phone data from GPS-enabled devices. When a passenger in a car requests a GPS position from a phone, the speed and location of the phone is sent to Inrix.

    Inrix also has a partnership with the Clear Channel Total Traffic Network. Clear Channel keeps track of incidents, construction, and accidents using helicopters, as well as reporters stationed on the ground and around the country. Both companies share and resell each other’s traffic data.”