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Highways Agency combines with Google for route 2.0

Lindsay Clark

The Highways Agency is working with Google to make traffic data available for use within the Google Maps traffic feature.

The traffic feature creates a colour-coded layer of the average speeds on England's motorways and major A road network onto the existing Google Map facility with different colours indicating the current speed of traffic.

The Highways Agency provides its traffic information to Google in a Datex II format, which is a European standard developed specifically for road data information exchange. The Datex organisation provides tools to convert the data model into an XML schema.

The system provides real-time traffic information and predictions based on past conditions, helping motorists to plan their journeys ahead to avoid congestion.

Denise Plumpton, director of information at the Highways Agency, says providing the data for the mash-up is a key part of the agency's information strategy designed to get traffic information out to motorists where and when they need it.

"We work regularly with third-party organisations to get our information to as wide an audience as possible," she says.

By publishing data to a wide audience, in a format in which they can use it, the Highways Agency is fulfilling its remit to help people avoid hold-ups, which in turn helps reduce congestion.

As well as reaching the Google mapping service, traffic data, provided by the agency's National Traffic Control Centre in Birmingham, is used to populate the Agency's own Traffic England website.

Highways Agency spokesman Anthony Aston says the agency would provide the same raw data to businesses wishing to integrate it with their applications as is available to Google, subject to discussion.

However, large businesses requiring detailed traffic data to integrate with internal applications can use the text-based Atlas Professional system direct from the agency.

Atlas Professional allows businesses to view only data from the areas which concerns them. This feature also enables you to create a customised RSS traffic information feed, thus providing headlines alerts for specific roads defined in "My Areas".

Meanwhile, City Timegrid is a high-level overview of the current state of the road network shown as current travel times between major destinations. In the coming months, new destinations will be added to the 14 existing choices in the City Timegrid.

The agency is gathering feedback from users before deciding which cities, event venues or transport interchanges will be included on this feature of Atlas Pro.

The agency is considering a number of future projects to build application from a variety of sources of traffic data, Aston says. There is the potential to bring in traffic data from organisation who run large fleets of vehicles, such as National Express. Satellite navigation systems could also provide a rich source of data.

"Obviously if TomTom has got 500 sat-navs on a section of the M1, there is a lot of useful information on traffic flow there," says Aston.

Data could be combined with the Highways Agency's own and republished for the benefit of businesses and all road users, Aston says.

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