Is there anything cellphones can't do? Soon, the old-fashioned stick cameras used to monitor traffic flow on congested highways will be a thing of the past as state agencies measure traffic based on how long it takes cell phone signals to pass from cell tower to cell tower, reports Government Technology.
Several states have implemented limited use of this new method but it's Missouri that is going with statewide implementation, mostly interstates and numbered routes, totaling 5,500 miles.
"Missouri motorists will be better informed than anyone else in the country on which roads to use and how long the drive will take, With this new technology, we'll cover many more miles of highway without any new equipment," said Pete Rahn, director of the Missouri Department of Transportation (MoDOT), in a statement.
Cellphone traffic monitoring is extrememly cost effiecent as there is little hardware to wear out and replace. At a cost of $6.2 million for two years, the cell phone system will provide traffic monitoring at a fraction of traditional method prices, according to MoDOT.
There is, of course, the usual criticism surrounding the use of cell phones and privacy. Right now, there seems to be little interest in tracking individuals, and the cell phone user's identity stays on the cellular company's side of the firewall, where it is used for billing purposes.
"We don't need it. We don't want it. They wouldn't want to give it to us anyway," Mudge said. "If, for some reason, Maryland came to us and said, 'We'd like to know who was speeding on I-95 yesterday at 3 p.m. -- tell us,' we [wouldn't] know. All of us are concerned about privacy, but this is not the place to be worried about it." Richard Mudge, vice president of Delcan, Missouri's cellular traffic monitoring provider.
No doubt, the proivacy issue will stay in the foreground as it is easy to pinpoint cell phone use within 10 miles. Eventually all phones will be able to locate where you are within 50 to 300 meters because of FCC rules forcing all cellular providers to install global positioning system units in their cell phones. In the war against traffic congestion, do we want to let Big Brother in our car?