Honda’s smartphone anti-congestion system

Clever gadget or just another driver distraction?

HONDA has announced the development of a smartphone-based anti-congestion system intended to make traffic flow more freely by providing drivers early warnings of vehicles ahead slowing down.

It’s long been pretty clear that a lot of traffic jams – particularly the sort that just appear on motorways without any apparent reason – are caused by just one or two cars slowing down. That creates a knock-on effect as following vehicles react, and perhaps over-react, and before you know it there’s stationary traffic.

Several companies have tried to overcome the problem by allowing vehicles to communicate with each other, particularly the likes of BMW, which has been working on its ConnectedDrive for more than a decade. However Honda’s doesn’t rely on the vehicles to do the talking, instead using the phones their occupants invariably carry.

The app measures the movement of the vehicle it’s in and passes that information on to other nearby phones. So if a car that’s out of sight ahead of you brakes heavily, your phone can warn you to gently slow down long before you’d normally have any clue that there was a problem brewing. On real-world tests in Indonesia, the Honda system has proved effective in reducing congestion, increasing average traffic speed and improving fuel consumption. It doesn’t even need everyone to use it – just a handful of drivers with early warning scattered among normal traffic can prevent congestion from building up.

Of course, there is a downside – the app uses the phone’s display to tell drivers whether there’s a congestion risk (green for ‘normal’, blue for ‘slow down’). And that means another display stuck on the inside of the windscreen alongside the sat-nav, iPod, ‘Mum’s Taxi’ stickers and everything else that many drivers seem to think is more important than actually seeingthrough the screen...

Being Honda, however, the firm is also working on a motorcycle-specific version of the app, using audio and vibration warnings rather than a display.

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