Yahoo News has an article from the AP that details a plan by the Missouri Department of Transportation to use a system to anonymously monitor thousands of cell phones, using their movements to map real-time traffic conditions statewide on all 5,500 miles of major roads. As would be expected privacy advocates are getting nervous, but MODOT assures everyone that no personal information is being gathered. Interestingly, this is not the first place to try this plan, as Baltimore already has a system that is used in house to monitor traffic and other locations are working on other systems. What makes the Missouri plan unique is that it is the largest in terms of scope of any of the systems, attempting to monitor traffic throughout all of Missouri, even in rural areas. Is this the wave of the future or will states continue to use more traditional methods such as cameras and in-road sensors? If the privacy issues can be worked out I think its a pretty cool use of technology to provide the public with some potentially useful information. Moreover, other potential uses for the data could involve analyzing traffic flow around accidents and crime locations. Is the next step monitoring sidewalk traffic and mall traffic?
Welcome to a brave new world. Would you sacrifice a little privacy in order to have a better idea about traffic jams and commute times from home to work. If you live in Missouri you may get to answer that question, or have it answered for you very soon. More after the jump.