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					 Session C8                                                                                                                   2062

                         Thomas Miles (, John Riddle (

Abstract-- Current travel conditions in urban areas are               Due to the increased traffic congestion in heavily populated
posing a major problem to Industrial Engineers, which is              areas, as well as a spike in the volume of vehicles on
why we will detail the growing solution of floating car data          roadways, there is a high demand for vast improvement in
and its uses and improvements in the developing field of              the efficiency of transportation systems [1]. Everyday people
intelligent transportation systems in our report. We will             get stuck in seemingly endless traffic jams and watch their
address the need for enhanced methods of transportation by            destination time on their brand new GPS system climb and
reducing congestion in traffic in heavily populated areas.            climb. They think they are so unlucky for hitting this traffic
The overall value, significance, and functionality of the             when in reality it could have been avoided completely
current technologies will be explored. The ethical issues of          because the traffic jam was already there before they even
tracking private parties and sharing data anonymously will            left work and yet their GPS still brought them to the exact
also be addressed. This paper will demonstrate the overall            same place. This describes just one example where if
importance of floating car data, and explain why it is                implemented, floating car data systems would not only save
beneficial to the optimization in the efficiency of                   the person time getting home, it is also one less person that
transportation systems. We will first describe all preliminary        is in that traffic jam. The more cars that are using on board
information dealing with floating car data systems. We will           floating car data systems, the less congestion the overall
next analyze the significance of improvement in current               roadway would experience.
traffic regulation systems. We will then detail how the data,             Floating car data is used to provide the most optimal and
consisting of individual velocity, position, and surroundings         efficient route to the specified destination [1]. The possible
is collected and transmitted from the car’s onboard                   applications of floating car data are endless. The information
computer. We will also address specifically how the                   collected from the floating cars can be presented to drivers
collected data will be stored and processed. We will then             who are not even collecting floating car data themselves; it
address ethical issues such as privacy that relate to using           can be presented over radio and the internet to help pre-plan
floating car data and how they can be avoided. Floating car           the best route of travel when going long distances [2].
data is already being used to improve the safety and                  Floating car data users with on board monitors will be able
efficiency of current traveling conditions, and it is the first       to receive travel advice based on real time data presenting
step in integrating intelligent transportation systems into           the best routes available which are determined by measuring
everyday life.                                                        road congestion just miles ahead of them [2].
                                                                          Another way the information can be presented to drivers
Key Words— Anonymity, Cloud Computing, Data                           is on digital road signs that give estimated travel times to the
Acquisition, Floating Car Data, Global Positioning System,            most popular destinations along that road [2]. If a certain
Intelligent Transportation Systems, Privacy                           route is very congested drivers will be warned and will
                                                                      neglect from taking that particular route which indirectly
                     BACKGROUND                                       will help that roadway become less congested in a shorter
                                                                      amount of time because it will not pile up with more
As modern and efficient solution to the problem of                    travelers [2]. However, the benefits of floating car data is not
America’s congested roads, we suggest floating car data,              only to be taken advantage of by travelers, various
which can be used to improve and optimize traffic flow and            companies will reap the benefits of the information provided
safety. Floating car data takes information collected via GPS         by floating car data as well. Companies that have to plan
monitoring systems, car system monitors, and cellphone                multiple day delivery trips will be able to use information
triangulation systems, floating car data communicates with            received from floating car data to analyze historic travel
other cars and systems to reduce congestion and travel time           times depending on what days of the week they will be
by selecting the best routes based on feedback from other             delivering goods [2]. A plethora of variables such as day of
drivers [1]. The only drawbacks to the use of floating car            the week, weather forecasts, and holiday congestion can be
data are the cost, storage, and processing of personal data.          taken into account when planning delivery trips to reach the
Expert research, however, shows that new floating car data            most efficient travel route which in turn will save the
systems are becoming more effective at dealing with these             company money and time [2].
issues.                                                                   Also, information on traffic congestion provided by
                                                                      floating car data can be used to help decide how many traffic
                                                                      lights a certain intersection needs or if it needs one at all.

Twelfth Annual Freshman Conference                                                                                   March 1, 2012
 Session C8                                                                                                                    2062

Traffic lights and poles are extremely expensive and there              receives and acts accordingly. For example, if a request is
are countless examples of situations where far too many                 sent for an image, the sensor is able capture an image with
traffic lights are put up for the amount of congestion an               direction, resolution, and frame rate [1].
intersection has. Using the data from floating cars                         All of the data that is collected from the various sensors
communities will not use tax money on traffic lights or                 on the car is sent to the service manager. This module not
things of that nature unless they are truly needed [2].                 only receives and processes data, but activates the various
    Specific vehicle data can even be utilized in order to keep         sensors on demand as well [3]. The data is then compressed
roads safer. Law enforcement will be able to tell what roads            and returned to the service manager to use as little
have average speeds that are far too high to be safe and can            bandwidth as possible. The data is then sent from the service
have more officials patrol the area in order to keep speed              manager to the communication module. This device is
down making the road much safer [2]. Also, if people are                responsible for the exchange of data between the data
traveling in the areas that have less congestion thanks to the          storage and the vehicle [3]. It takes the compressed data
floating car data, they are less likely to be in an accident            packages that are ready to be transmitted and, following a
because there are simply less vehicles where they are driving           strategy that is able to be changed to meet the demand for
making the roads safer for everyone [2].                                certain data, activates the communication channel and send
    One final way floating car data can make an impactful               the data packages to the main data center. This strategy
difference is with pollution and emissions in heavily                   minimizes the amount of time required to upload, download,
congested areas [2]. If people were using floating car data on          and process the floating car data [3].
a large scale they would be able to avoid the congested area                                  DATA STORAGE
which indirectly makes that area less concentrated with
vehicles which would lower the amount of pollution in that              One possible concern one might have with floating car data
certain area. The large scale usage of measured traffic                 collection systems is how the data will actually be stored. In
information has the capability of improving transportation in           order to keep the accuracy of the information provided to the
a variety of aspects [2]. Floating car data provides the                public, constant updates must be being sent back and forth
necessary improvements to transportation systems to save                between the cars and the central server [6]. The central
people, companies, and communities’ time and money.                     server will have to be taking in updates of traffic information
                                                                        from all over the world which obviously puts a tremendous
                  DATA COLLECTION                                       amount of load on the server [5]. Also, in urban areas the
                                                                        server will be taking in data from millions of cars at a time
Floating car data is collected in two main forms. One mode              which not only puts load on the serve but it also makes
of data collection relies on tacking the location and velocity          communication costs skyrocket. It would seem that one
of the car using signals from cell phone towers, while the              would need to pick his or her poison; either let the accuracy
other mode uses data collected from the on board computers              of the traffic information slide or put an unhealthy amount of
of the car. This data is collected and then processed [1]. The          stress on the server and deal with the communication costs
processed data is stored for computers and algorithms to use            to and from the vehicles [1].
and communicate with other cars. But the data must first be                 A variety of possible solutions that would help keep load
requested, collected, and processed before any computations             and communication costs low as well as keep the overall
can be completed [3].                                                   accuracy of the system in tact have been presented. One
    As stated earlier, one of the ways the data is collected is         solution to the previously described issue is to set a speed
through the use of cellphone triangulation [1]. While cars are          threshold for every roadway [6]. The information from a
driving, algorithms can be used to find the car’s exact                 certain vehicle traveling on a roadway will be transmitted to
location based on the signal strength received from various             the server if and only if the average speed of the vehicle
cell phone towers in the area. This data can be used by                 differs from the threshold speed by a predetermined amount
general traffic systems, but does not reveal much about the             [6]. This way, if all of the vehicles on the roadway are
individual cars that are traveling on the roadway [3].                  traveling at the normal speed, the information from these
    There are several components to the on board computers              cars will not be transmitted. The server now knows that this
of the cars that work together to collect the necessary and             roadway is not congested and vehicles are traveling at an
essential data that will be sent out and stored. Position data          average pace without receiving any data which will help
comes from the traffic level analyzer, which estimates the              reduce the amount of useless load on the server as well as
traffic level by evaluating the distribution in time intervals of       the cost to communicate the data [6].
GPS data received [1]. The data is filtered to reduce                       Another possible solution is much like the first policy
unnecessary waste of computer memory, and is available                  except it is based on more randomization and helps reduce
upon request from the main computers. The image server                  load on the server and communication cost by and even
collects data from cameras around the car [1]. This computer            further amount. The policy uses the same idea of having an
determines what sensors are necessary based on the data it              average speed threshold as the first policy, the only

Twelfth Annual Freshman Conference                                                                                    March 1, 2012
 Session C8                                                                                                                  2062

difference lies in the fact that once it has been determined           policy of data updates   to the server silences all concern
that the vehicle is not moving at the average speed, instead           because it provide an     accurate representation of traffic
of it having a one-hundred percent probability of being sent           movement on roadways     as well as minimizes the stress put
to the server it has a probability of something other and one          on the central server    as well as reduces the cost of
[6]. This will greatly reduce the amount of transmissions              communication greatly.
which will also reduce the communication costs and stress
on the server [6].                                                                    DATA COMMUNICATION
    A final solution to dealing with keeping the accuracy of
the data as well as minimizing transmissions is the flow-              After the data has been collected, or after the data has been
based policy. The flow-based policy does not set a threshold           decoded and computed, it must be sent over a network to
speed like the first two options do. The flow-based policy             receivers so it can be used. However, unlike the category of
gives every vehicle an equal chance to send information to             positioning systems, in which global positioning systems are
the server which should give a more accurate representation            the best option in terms of its effectiveness and cheap cost,
of the average speed because it does not exclude a large               the category of communication technologies has no such
interval of vehicles [6]. Using the flow-based policy, the             option. This means that there are many competing systems,
server will collect a certain amount of data based the number          each with its own advantages and disadvantages. Of these
of cars that move from point a to point b on a certain road.           competing technologies, there are two main groups – passive
The more vehicles that are traveling on a particular road              and active [8].
segment will result in more transitions where as if there are a            Passive technologies describe communication that is
small amount of vehicles that are traveling on a particular            solely one-way. This involves communication from a server
road there will be far less transmissions [6].                         to the cars, rather than the cars to the server [8]. One major
    The only question that remains is which policy is the              technology in this field is the Traffic Message Channel. This
best? In order to answer this question highway traffic speed           system uses FM radio to broadcast real-time weather and
data provided the GCM travel website was utilized [6]. This            traffic conditions. These broadcasts are received by the car
information was collected by the Wisconsin Department of               radio or by any types of navigation systems in the car. The
Transportations and provides detailed information on road              cost of Traffic Message Channel technologies has been
congestion; velocity, average times from point to point, and           rapidly declining, and most systems range from $50-$150
number of cars per lane per hour etc. [6]. Data collected by a         [8]. These systems are already widely in use in countries in
highway side sensor on I90 in Chicago were downloaded                  the European Union, and are starting to find their way into
from six in the morning to six at night [6]. They did this             American vehicles [8].
because it would be a good representation of how the                       Active technologies, contrary to passive technologies,
policies worked in times of heavy congestion such as road              refer to systems that are capable of two-way
hour and times of minimal congestion. The data that was                communications. This allows a vehicle to both send and
collected was included how many vehicles passed the                    receive data, allowing great precision and specificity of data
sensor, the average speeds, and the times the vehicles passed          that is being received from the server [8]. By far, the
the sensor [6]. Then, on the same roadway, each individual             technology that best fits this category is cell phone data.
update policy was tested so they could compare the exact               Data usage has increased to phenomenal levels in the past
results with the results each update policy was giving out             decade, from where it was only an idea in development, to
[6].                                                                   the point where most of us cannot imagine out lives today
    When comparing the three policies the number of                    without it. Today we are able to send and receive data at
transmission, the error (accuracy), and the communication              over 200 Kb/s, and with the development of 4G LTE
costs were measured for comparison [6]. The error is                   hotspots around the world, this number will only continue to
calculated by comparing the average speed the specific                 grow [7]. These systems are able to transport massive
policy collected with the actual average speed collected by            amount of data, and can be used to transfer the data received
the roadside sensor [6]. Based on the results, the best update         by the sensors on the car to the storage facilities, and the
policy is without question the flow-based policy. Not only             final calculations containing the optimal route and other
does the flow-based policy result in less transmission which           information can then be returned to the car [7].
also means less money spent on communication costs, it also                Active technologies offer the best decision approach for
resulted in less error or more accurate results [6]. The results       the future of floating car data. The ability for two way
were not only much closer to the actual average speed                  communication allows for the best input and output from the
detected by the sensor but they were also much more                    systems [8]. This allows for not only an advisory of which
consistent and did not vary significantly. This is because the         route to take, which passive technology systems can only do,
flow-based policy gives a more precise representation of the           but specific speeds to travel, what to look out for, and how
entire population of vehicles traveling on the road whereas            to avoid any unforeseen circumstances. The ability to
the other two policies neglect an entire interval of data              communicate directly with the computers with a larger
which gives a skewed average speed [6]. The flow-based

Twelfth Annual Freshman Conference                                                                                   March 1, 2012
 Session C8                                                                                                                      2062

amount of data sets the active technologies ahead, and shows            infrastructure, or optimize the use of the infrastructure that is
a bright future for the technologies behind floating car data           currently in place. The problem with the former option is the
systems.                                                                price to completely renew the American infrastructure is
                                                                        extremely high, and in today’s economy, a completely
      GENERATING TRAFFIC INFORMATION                                    absurd suggestion [8]. That leaves us with the latter option
                                                                        of using the current infrastructure more efficiently.
With all of the data collected from the car sent and stored,            Unfortunately, this is not the case.
the computations that actually affect other drives can be                  Optimizing travel time has always been a desire for
completed. However, this process involves many steps. The               decision makers. Faster trips lead to more travel which leads
data that has already been filtered at the car level must be            to more money flowing [8]. The issue of funding optimized
further refined to allow other data from other cars to come in          data processing that leads to the improved transportation has
to the computing systems [9]. Each time a package of data is            always been a problem and the major setback to any serious
received, a great deal of trivial things must be done to the            advances. Due to recent technological advances in the area
data before it can be used, including; decoding of the data,            of consumer electronics, however, the cost of data
plausibility checks to discard any faulty data, conversion of           acquisition has been lowered, and new ways of collecting,
the data into usable information, conversion of the data into           transmitting, and processing data have been lowered. In the
storable information, and the data must finally be recorded             year 2009, the total expense of traffic congestion cost US
before it can be used [9].                                              drivers an estimated 90 billion dollars [8]. This number will
    The first step in this process is the decoding of the data.         grow exponentially until a solution is put into place.
The data comes into the computer center and must be                        The budget for Intelligent Transportation Systems
identified from a specific source [9]. The package of data              approved by the Federal Government came to a total of 428
has a file containing the global positioning coordinates that           million dollars [8]. As a comparison, the National Oceanic
were collected from the car. This data is used to give an               and Atmospheric Administration was allotted 1.54 billion
exact location of the car on a roadway. However, if the data            dollars for the collection and prediction of weather data, a
is missing or imprecise, the entire package of data is                  very similar process. Developers need more money to build
discarded. This happens when a cars on-board computer is                an effective Intelligent Transportation System and solve the
not functioning properly [9].                                           problem of traffic congestion before it escalates even further
    If the data passes the localization, it then moves on to the        [8].
next step of the process of computing, which is using the                  The cost of gathering the data, however, is beginning to
data package to construct a numerical model of the road                 greatly reduce. With technology advancing at an exponential
network that contains mainly the velocity information as a              rate, once cutting edge and expensive systems are now
function of position, heading, and time, but also additional            becoming widely available and cheap [8]. The devices that
information like variations in the velocity [9]. This model             gather the data move directly with the traffic, which means
forms the base for other evaluations of the data, such as the           that there is little to no need for any extra infrastructure, and
computation and calculation of the expected travel time [8].            that overall fixed prices of the systems are low. This
This data is used to predict how much traffic flow a certain            approach allows great mobility for data, and can cover a
stretch of roadway will receive in a given amount of time,              much larger area of data samples, rather than sensors that are
and how the specific travel time of traffic will be affected            placed on one single roadway [8].
[9].                                                                       On the other hand, variable costs are high due to the large
    Finally, a forecast must be made to calculate the time-             demand for sensors in order to have an appropriate amount
dependent cost functions for the instantaneous route                    of data to accurately compile conditions over an entire
planning. This is done by looking at old data and seeing                network. Luckily this is mostly done with global positioning
which surrounding roads are historically lest congested and             systems, a technology that has been steadily declining in
can be relied on as a viable alternate route of travel.                 price by about 30 percent a year over the past several years
Simulations are sometimes run with the numerical model of               [8]. This technology is not only becoming cheap, but the
the received car data and existing network to support the               accuracy of the data is increasing every year. This means
suggested route [9]. These measurements can deal with the               that the data received will be more and more useful to
predicted flow of traffic to alternate routes, and traffic can be       computations, and precision, accuracy, and relevance of
dispersed evenly to avoid congestion on back roads as much              calculations will greatly increase.
as possible.
                                                                                          ETHICAL CONCERNS
                 COSTS AND EXPENSES
                                                                        Probably the biggest concern revolving around the large
There are two solutions to the problem that is congested                scale usage of floating car data systems is the issue with
roadways. America either has to invest in a new                         privacy and identity protection. These privacy concerns are

Twelfth Annual Freshman Conference                                                                                      March 1, 2012
 Session C8                                                                                                                               2062

obviously expected as are they with anything that deals with
putting private information over a server or satellite where it
                                                                      [2]Turksma, S. (August 2000). “The Various Uses of Floating Car Data.”
could possibly be mishandled. Floating car data system                Peek             Traffic           BV.           [Online]          Available:
producing companies will have to be very aware of possible  
problems that could arise so they can avoid them and keep             [3]Fastenrath, Ulrich. “Floating Car Data on a Larger Scale.” [Online]
their product safe and secure [10]. If the information
                                                                      [4] (2010) “Traffic Data Collection for Floating Car Data Enhancement in
obtained from floating car data systems were to be used               V2I Networks.” Hindawi Publishing Corporation [Online] Available:
incorrectly it could theoretically reveal the phone number, 
direction, and the exact position of the car at any time [10].        [5] Rahmani, Mahmood, Haris N. Koutsopoulos, Anand Ranganathan.
                                                                      (2010). “Requirements and Potential of GPS-based Floating car data for
There are already laws in place that prohibit specific
                                                                      Traffic Management: Stockholm Case Study.” [Online] Available:
tracking of vehicles via the use GPS technology, and        
systems that are currently under development will make all            [6] Ayala, Daniel. (2010). “Communication Reduction for Floating Car
received data anonymous [10]. This way the information                Data-based Traffic Information Systems.” International Conference on
                                                                      Advanced Geographic Information Systems. [Online] Available:
received will just be raw data not linked at all with a
specifics persons’ vehicle or them. Also, some people are             [7] (2011) “Using Cloud computing to process intensive floating car data
reluctant to allow their vehicle information to be recorded           for urban traffic surveillance.” International Journal of Geographical
based on the fear that if they are traveling well over the            Information               Science.             [Online]            Available:
speed limit that it could be traced back to them and in some
way they could be punished for traveling that fast. However,          [8]Fabian, Peter. (April 2004). “The End of Congestion: Developing a
since all information collected will be anonymous there is no         Large Scale “Floating Car Data” System.” Princeton [Online PDF]
way that it could be linked back to the specific person [10].         Available:
                                                                      [9](2008, April 25) “Intelligent Extended Floating Car Data Collection.”
Another possible solution presented is for floating car data
                                                                      University            of         Trento.          [Online]         Available:
system producing companies to allow there companies to      
sign off on specific bits of information from their vehicle           [10] Fuchs, Simone. “How to Protect Privacy in Floating Car Data
that they would like or would not like to be released [10].           Systems.”      Institute of Smart System-Technologies. 2008. [Online]
This way any data the customer is not comfortable with
releasing to the server will not be recorded [10]. Although
there numerous possible ethical issues with the right policies                         ADDITIONAL RESOURCES
and attention to detail, the privacy of all the people that are
                                                                      (2008, April 25) “Intelligent Extended Floating Car Data Collection.”
collecting or using floating car data for their benefit will
                                                                      University        of          Trento.           [Online]       Available:
surely be secure and no cause for worry.                    

                   FINAL THOUGHTS                                                         ACKNOWLEDGMENTS

The widespread use of floating car data will make any trip            We would like to thank our engineering professors and
optimal and efficient. The systems being used are already             chairs and co-chairs. Thanks to them, we are able to refine
mostly in place, and the necessary data storage devices are           our paper and make it as professional as possible.
currently being developed. These devices are able to
increase the amount of information being sent and
processed, allowing maximum accuracy and precision of any
computations preformed. The cost of the systems is steadily
declining with time and technological development,
allowing the number of physical units to increase, and the
overall amount of floating car data being received. The
ethical concerns associated with tracking have been
addressed via laws and systems that assure anonymity are
being developed. Using data associated with real time events
to improve transportation systems will ultimately lead to
decongestion of American roadways and safer way for
people everywhere travel.

[1] “Extended Floating-Car Data for the Acquisition of Traffic
Information.”    BMW        Group.     [Online]      Available:

Twelfth Annual Freshman Conference                                                                                             March 1, 2012

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