Apple patents smart navigation routing with crowd-sourced stop light pattern recognition

Posted:
in General Discussion edited August 2014
The U.S. Patent and Trademark Office on Tuesday issued Apple a patent for a smart travel route creation system that relies on real-time crowd-sourced stop sign and stop light-based traffic analysis to find the fastest path to a destination.




According to Apple's U.S. Patent No. 8,793,062 for "Routing based on detected stops," the system collects and analyzes traffic data from mobile devices like iPhones to determine the location and operating pattern of stop signs and stop lights. The information, which is more accurate than conventional traffic monitoring methods, can then be used to create faster routes and even for departure time suggestions.


Source: USPTO


In some embodiments, the invention relies on an iPhone's GPS module to determine when a user is likely in a moving vehicle. Correlating the GPS positioning data with information from the onboard accelerometer and system clock, the device is able to determine the location and time spent at stop signs and stop lights. The data package is sent to an offsite server in real-time or near real-time for pattern analysis.

For example, multiple iPhones send traffic information up to the server, which correlates the stop sign/stop light data based on location and time to find congested areas. Users' devices may also save collected traffic data for upload at a later time, while the server keeps track of a location's history.

To determine whether a vehicle is stopped at a stop sign or stop light, the system analyzes movement as a function of time. For example, a series of short stops followed by short movements and ending with a considerably long-distance movement of would describe the "stop-and-go" pattern experienced at a stop sign.




Alternatively, the location and pattern of a stop light may be determined by lumping together data from multiple vehicles that stop in close proximity to a known intersection for a long duration of time, then move through the intersection all at once. This embodiment also allows for analysis and tracking of stop light patterns, which can help in creating an effective navigation route.




After aggregation and processing, collected stop sign/stop light information can be pushed to a device or devices running a navigation app, like Apple's Maps. Stop signs, stop lights, accidents and other points of interest can be displayed graphically on a map, each being selectable for retrieving historical site data and other information.

In some embodiments, the data is also used to inform users of expected or real-time delays. Much like the current Maps app implementation of live traffic overlays for select roads and highways, the patented system shows a particular stop light as green, yellow or red depending on historical and real-time delay information. Users can also check an intersection's performance by time of day, allowing for informed departure times.




On that point, Apple's solution is also able to suggest departure times for a given route by calculating the number and effects of stop signs/stop lights along the way. Armed with adequate data, the server can predict distance, speed and stop sign/stop light delays a user is likely to encounter based on a specified departure time. According to the document, a driver may experience a continuous or near-continuous drive to the destination location when using the invention.

The remainder of Apple's patent describes secondary features like accident and stop light malfunction recognition, as well as a more detailed description of the time and movement thresholds required for accurate stop sign/stop light recognition.




It is unclear if Apple intends to apply the technology to its Maps app in the future, though initial betas of the upcoming iOS 8 do not support such granular traffic pattern analysis. Existing solutions similar to Apple's patent include popular crowd-sourced mapping and navigation app Waze, which was purchased by Google in 2013.

Apple's stop light/stop sign-based traffic analysis and routing patent was first filed for in 2012 and credits Jorge S. Fino as its inventor.
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Comments

  • Reply 1 of 38
    shogunshogun Posts: 362member
    I'd like to know how fast to drive between lights to always hit green. Would save gas, save brakes, get you there as quickly, and be a more pleasant experience for the lack of constant acceleration and deceleration.

    I know slow driving to get a green can be an inconvenience to those behind you who are going to turn at the next intersection instead of drive through, for example. But surely this is a solvable problem.

    This could actually being self driving cars one step closer to reality, as well as a smart traffic grid.
  • Reply 2 of 38
    droidftwdroidftw Posts: 1,009member
    I hope this doesn't mean that Apple will be suing to try to remove these features from Google Maps. I would hate to lose something I've been using for so long and have grown to love using.

    However, if they're just doing this their own way in order to give Apple Maps access to this technology then more power to them. It's extremely useful and helpful information to have when using a navigation program. Those of you who only use Apple Maps will really benefit from this.
  • Reply 3 of 38
    MacProMacPro Posts: 19,251member
    shogun wrote: »
    I'd like to know how fast to drive between lights to always hit green. Would save gas, save brakes, get you there as quickly, and be a more pleasant experience for the lack of constant acceleration and deceleration.

    I know slow driving to get a green can be an inconvenience to those behind you who are going to turn at the next intersection instead of drive through, for example. But surely this is a solvable problem.

    This could actually being self driving cars one step closer to reality, as well as a smart traffic grid.

    This ... or an App that changes the lights for you ;)
  • Reply 4 of 38
    tenlytenly Posts: 709member
    shogun wrote: »
    I'd like to know how fast to drive between lights to always hit green. Would save gas, save brakes, get you there as quickly, and be a more pleasant experience for the lack of constant acceleration and deceleration.

    I know slow driving to get a green can be an inconvenience to those behind you who are going to turn at the next intersection instead of drive through, for example.

    I would also like to know how much to increase or decrease my current speed so that the next light I encounter is green - but I want it to give me both options based on my current speed. If I'm doing 75 in a 60, it would be useless to be told to drive 56 in order to hit the next light green. I'd like it to find the 2 closest speeds to my actual speed - so for example 71 or 82 might both be speeds that get me to a green depending how far away from the next light I am.

    Another feature that MotionX has had for a while which I'd love to see added to Apple Maps is the display of the speed limit, my current speed AND the ability to set alerts if I exceed the speed limit by a configurable amount.

    And one more no-brainer improvement would be to have the Maps app automatically switch to the appropriate units (miles/kms) based on my location. (ie: driving across the Canada/US border). It's a pain to do this while driving.
  • Reply 5 of 38
    pscooter63pscooter63 Posts: 1,040member
    Quote:

    Originally Posted by Shogun View Post



    I'd like to know how fast to drive between lights to always hit green. Would save gas, save brakes, get you there as quickly, and be a more pleasant experience for the lack of constant acceleration and deceleration.



    I know slow driving to get a green can be an inconvenience to those behind you who are going to turn at the next intersection instead of drive through, for example. But surely this is a solvable problem.

     

     

    The town I grew up in has a loop that (mostly) encircles the city, but is littered with debilitating stoplights and parallel service roads.  In the late 70s or perhaps early 80s (dating myself here), they installed just such a system as you describe, with electronic signage every 1/4-mile indicating the best speed to make all the lights.  It seemed fairly precise, because it didn't round up or down to the nearest "0" or "5" mph.

     

    Usually the speed was noticeably slower than average, which led to driver impatience, and the system being generally disregarded. 

     

    On top of that, you have inaccuracies in each driver's speedometer (Car and Driver surveyed this once - most speedometers report a slightly faster speed than actual, even BMWs).

     

    The system was removed after a year or so.

  • Reply 6 of 38
    MacProMacPro Posts: 19,251member
    OT a bit but ... I listened to a report yesterday that discovered in Florida they (not sure who 'they' are) are now adding red-light cameras AND reducing the time the lights are on amber so as to catch more people and make more money! I suppose until someone is killed due to shorter amber time this will continue.
  • Reply 7 of 38
    SpamSandwichSpamSandwich Posts: 33,408member
    Thank goodness those Google driverless cars solved all of these problems. /s
  • Reply 8 of 38
    Quote:

    Originally Posted by DroidFTW View Post



    Those of you who only use Apple Maps will really benefit from this.

     

    Eventually. Who knows when, or even if, this will find its way into the delivered product? The patent is two years old and, according to the article, is not included in the next version.

     

    Besides, what's the point of trying to calculate driving time when it can't find the destination? <img class=" src="http://forums-files.appleinsider.com/images/smilies//lol.gif" /> 

  • Reply 9 of 38

    These features are exactly what makes Waze useful now (as it mentions in the article), but I’ll definitely look forward to Apple’s take on it. Waze’s interface is a bit sketchy.

  • Reply 10 of 38
    pinolopinolo Posts: 91member
    And then the question... Wouldn't it be easier if the cities allowed "reading" access to their traffic light software?

    Less cars at stops, less stress, less pollution. Accurate data in real time. And the smartphones would all connect to one Central server allowing "smart drive".
  • Reply 11 of 38
    Quote:

    Originally Posted by pinolo View Post



    And then the question... Wouldn't it be easier if the cities allowed "reading" access to their traffic light software?



    Less cars at stops, less stress, less pollution. Accurate data in real time. And the smartphones would all connect to one Central server allowing "smart drive".

    no.  because the other conditions that are happening in real time [the 3 cars pinning you in, stuff in the road, hydroplaning water] override any light software.   And your solution only works if ALL cars are talking to the central server (typically, until a majority of something is centrally controlled, the uncontrolled cause more issues because they are unpredictable)

     

    I think the best solution is crowdsourcing the 'flow' of traffic around you.  It's what your brain is doing with all the data it has [signage, cars, non-car obstacles, pedestrians, weather observations, road conditions, actual road path (subtle curves not signed)].   If I knew that going 85 wasn't going to get me to my location any faster because the flow of traffic just outside of my visual field would slow me down to 67 anyway, I'd just go the 70mph speed limit.

     

    So... do you think a future CarPlay has an 'Siri' function to advise you with notifications of traffic along your route, and advise alternate routes?

    ("Dave, I see that there is a traffic backup on this route...  I'd advise you to turn left at the next light, proceed at 45 mph in the left lane for 4 miles as that appears to be flowing nicely.... btw, your left tire is slowing losing air, and you're projected at current rates of consumption to need to fuel  in 45 minutes, but your destination is well within your 50 mile reserve setting... shall I find the least expensive fuel and service station along this new route, or proceed as planned?")

  • Reply 12 of 38
    droidftwdroidftw Posts: 1,009member
    Eventually. Who knows when, or even if, this will find its way into the delivered product? The patent is two years old and, according to the article, is not included in the next version.

    Besides, what's the point of trying to calculate driving time when it can't find the destination? :lol:  
    Last I knew Apple Maps was very capable of getting you to your destination if you know the street address and are in a large metropolitan area in the US. That covers a pretty large portion of the user base.
  • Reply 13 of 38
    froodfrood Posts: 771member
    Quote:

    Originally Posted by digitalclips View Post



    OT a bit but ... I listened to a report yesterday that discovered in Florida they (not sure who 'they' are) are now adding red-light cameras AND reducing the time the lights are on amber so as to catch more people and make more money! I suppose until someone is killed due to shorter amber time this will continue.

     

    They've been doing this for some time.  Data so far suggests these cameras cause more accidents, but fewer fatal ones.  Basically the accidents shifted from the rarer race through the red light way to late and kill someone to much more frequent 'S*** it's red and has a camera, slam on the brakes and get rear ended' accidents.

  • Reply 14 of 38
    Great. Now it can get you to the wrong destination more efficiently. Until they fix the basic problem of finding the correct location (e.g. I'm in NYC and looking for an address on West 14th Street, it finds it in Manhattan not Georgia) this functionality is worthless. They should just buy or license TomTom and call it a day.
  • Reply 15 of 38
    haggarhaggar Posts: 1,568member
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by Frood View Post

     

     

    They've been doing this for some time.  Data so far suggests these cameras cause more accidents, but fewer fatal ones.  Basically the accidents shifted from the rarer race through the red light way to late and kill someone to much more frequent 'S*** it's red and has a camera, slam on the brakes and get rear ended' accidents.


     

    Don't some cities also have systems which turn the light red sooner when it detects someone driving faster, even if there is only one car on the road at the time?

  • Reply 16 of 38
    haggarhaggar Posts: 1,568member
    Quote:



    Originally Posted by DroidFTW View Post





    Last I knew Apple Maps was very capable of getting you to your destination if you know the street address and are in a large metropolitan area in the US. That covers a pretty large portion of the user base.

     

    It's the efficiency of directions in Apple Maps that leaves much to be desired.  So it correctly identifies the location of the red pin, but then it sends you around the long way or in circles to get there.

  • Reply 17 of 38
    shogun wrote: »
    I'd like to know how fast to drive between lights to always hit green. Would save gas, save brakes, get you there as quickly, and be a more pleasant experience for the lack of constant acceleration and deceleration.

    I know slow driving to get a green can be an inconvenience to those behind you who are going to turn at the next intersection instead of drive through, for example. But surely this is a solvable problem.

    This could actually being self driving cars one step closer to reality, as well as a smart traffic grid.

    This ... or an App that changes the lights for you ;)

    Los Angeles has such a system that it uses to monitor and control its traffic signals:
    4/2/13 Los Angeles is the first city in the world to synchronize all of its traffic lights, hoping to unclog its massive roadway congestion.

    It has taken 30 years and $400 million, but Los Angeles has finally synchronized its traffic lights in an effort to reduce traffic congestion, becoming the first city in the world to do so.

    Mayor Antonio R. Villaraigosa said with the 4,500 lights now in sync, commuters will save 2.8 minutes driving five miles in Los Angeles, The New York Times reported. Villaraigosa also said that the average speed would rise more than two miles per hour on city streets and that carbon emissions would be greatly reduced as drivers spend less time starting and stopping. According to CBS News, less idling will mean a 1-ton reduction in carbon emissions every year.

    The initiative, named Automated Traffic Surveillance and Control, began ahead of the 1984 Olympics to pre-empt traffic snarls as visitors swarmed to events. Today, it uses underground magnetic censors to measure traffic conditions. That data is sent through fiber-optic cables to a central control where, without human intervention, it's analyzed and stored to predict future patterns.

    According to the Times, the control system adjusts traffic signals and has the ability to extend green lights for buses traveling in bus-only lanes during periods of heavy congestion. It also accounts for special events, like the Oscars or a presidential visit, by releasing light patterns to vehicles that advise them of alternative routes. The censors also detect bicycles and pedestrian traffic in certain neighborhoods.

    Despite what the city is calling a victory for commuters and the environment, experts aren't so sure the expensive innovation can combat greater factors at play. According to a Texas A&M Transportation Institute report, drivers nationwide have wasted more time commuting since 2008. In 2011, they were delayed almost 5.5 billion hours on the road, up from 1.1 billion in 1982. Individuals spent 38 hours delayed in 2011.

    http://news.msn.com/us/los-angeles-syncs-up-all-4500-of-its-traffic-lights


    Problem 1: The cost in time and dollars

    Problem 2: Likely not feasible in metro ares with snow, ice and constantly torn-up roads -- ChicagoLand???

    Apple could offer this as a service to municipalities at a fraction of the cost -- and likely, provide more accurate results.


    Here's an interesting read about the failure of traffic light synchronization in a cold-climate municipality -- Toronto:

    http://www.canadian-taxpayer.com/traffic-light-synchronization.html
  • Reply 18 of 38
    pinolo wrote: »
    And then the question... Wouldn't it be easier if the cities allowed "reading" access to their traffic light software?

    Less cars at stops, less stress, less pollution. Accurate data in real time. And the smartphones would all connect to one Central server allowing "smart drive".

    The concept is good, but the information may not be in a usable form -- or it may not be available, at all. Los Angeles was the first municipality to automate all its traffic lights -- it took 30 tears and was completed in 2013.
  • Reply 19 of 38
    gatorguygatorguy Posts: 22,828member
    The concept is good, but the information may not be in a usable form -- or it may not be available, at all. Los Angeles was the first municipality to automate all its traffic lights -- it took 30 tears and was completed in 2013.
    "Traffic jams will still be unavoidable of course, but there’s a definite improvement in the overall flow of cars on the road. According to officials, the average time to drive 5 miles in the city before was 20 minutes. With the new system, this has been reduced to just 17.2 minutes."

    "Underpinning the new system is the software that LA’s traffic people have designed. Essentially, every single highway, lane, intersection and vehicle represents a data point with variables that are in a constant state of flux. Managing all of this is a tough problem to solve, which is why computers are used to automate the entire system. Not much is known about LA’s Automated Traffic Surveillance and Control System software, other than that the city built it themselves, but it’s likely to be similar to what IBM is doing in Boston, where engineers are mining traffic data so they can make real-time adjustments in order to ease congestion in the city."
    http://siliconangle.com/blog/2013/04/03/big-data-traffic-jam-smarter-lights-happy-drivers/

    Yet LA still holds the title for worst traffic congestion among big US cities.
    http://blog.esurance.com/do-synchronized-traffic-lights-really-solve-congestion-woes/
  • Reply 20 of 38
    dick applebaumdick applebaum Posts: 12,527member
    pinolo wrote: »
    And then the question... Wouldn't it be easier if the cities allowed "reading" access to their traffic light software?


    Less cars at stops, less stress, less pollution. Accurate data in real time. And the smartphones would all connect to one Central server allowing "smart drive".
    no.  because the other conditions that are happening in real time [the 3 cars pinning you in, stuff in the road, hydroplaning water] override any light software.   And your solution only works if ALL cars are talking to the central server (typically, until a majority of something is centrally controlled, the uncontrolled cause more issues because they are unpredictable)

    I think the best solution is crowdsourcing the 'flow' of traffic around you.  It's what your brain is doing with all the data it has [signage, cars, non-car obstacles, pedestrians, weather observations, road conditions, actual road path (subtle curves not signed)].   If I knew that going 85 wasn't going to get me to my location any faster because the flow of traffic just outside of my visual field would slow me down to 67 anyway, I'd just go the 70mph speed limit.

    So... do you think a future CarPlay has an 'Siri' function to advise you with notifications of traffic along your route, and advise alternate routes?
    ("Dave, I see that there is a traffic backup on this route...  I'd advise you to turn left at the next light, proceed at 45 mph in the left lane for 4 miles as that appears to be flowing nicely.... btw, your left tire is slowing losing air, and you're projected at current rates of consumption to need to fuel  in 45 minutes, but your destination is well within your 50 mile reserve setting... shall I find the least expensive fuel and service station along this new route, or proceed as planned?")

    Good post!

    When we lived in Saratoga, CA, my wife Lucy would frequently got to Los Gatos (Spanish for The Gatos) for shopping, etc. Lucy prided herself on finding a better alternate route to any destination -- she called it "the back way". So one day we had to take the car to the dealership -- Lucy gave me directions to use the back way. AIR, eliminated a few stop light but was a few miles longer and involved driving Quito Road.

    Quito road was 1-lane each way, very curvy in spots and mostly no-passing ... But the thing that stood out for me was the speed limit signs -- things like 17 mph, 9 mph or 22 mph:

    1000

    What are you supposed to do when the speed limit changes from 22 to 17 mph? Like Alex saying to Rev Jim: "Go Slower".

    Traffic flow analysis would have been of no use to Lucy (In the 1960s she could traverse the entire Las Vegas Strip without ever using a surface road :)
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