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When you come to highway congestion and open the WAZE app—regardless of whether you enter anything—you are contributing to an increasingly reliable source of information used by transportation researchers like Professor Lee Han at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville.

Any time new technology is presented it needs to be tested, and the partnership with WAZE for Cities is demonstrating that crowdsourced data has great potential.

Professor Lee Han
Professor Lee Han

“Good traffic operations depend on good traffic information,” said Han, who teaches civil and environmental engineering in UT’s Tickle College of Engineering and is an Oak Ridge National Laboratory collaborating scientist. “We can supplement the data collected by TDOT’s [the Tennessee Department of Transportation’s] existing sensors with this kind of crowdsourced data. So we’re looking at different technologies to save money for the state and to obtain better traffic information.”

The data collected by WAZE for Cities is stripped of all user information except the time stamp, location, and any comments about road conditions. Within minutes, this information is sent to TDOT for traffic operation and research.

Traditional sources of traffic incident data include law enforcement reports as well as TDOT’s own sensors. But Han said it can take police longer to arrive at the scene and file a report than for WAZE users to report from the scene.

TDOT has invested in hundreds of radar sensors in the field, but that is only a limited deployment. The sensors must also be maintained routinely to stay accurate. WAZE for Cities is free, for now, and users can use it anywhere they are located.

Because the real-time data collected from WAZE allows users to give details about traffic crashes, congestion, work zones, and incidents, it can potentially offer a more complete and timely picture of the cause of congestion and how bad it is.

CONTACT

Élan Young (865-974-8786, elan@tennessee.edu)