Approximately 3,000 drivers in the Seattle area have been using a prototype service based on Inrix’s technology. Traffic information is delivered via smart phones, and sections of the city’s highways show up as green, yellow, red, or black, depending on the level of congestion. The phones also display estimated times until roads will either clear or become jammed. The company says that the service correctly color-codes routes about 88 percent of the time when forecasting conditions up to 48 hours in advance.
The goal, says Mistele, is to provide drivers with truly useful information about traffic, such as the best route for a delivery van, the ideal time to leave work, how to reroute a trip to avoid an accident, or even an estimate of travel time from a New York City hotel to Newark Airport next Thursday evening. And while the cost to individual consumers will be set by resellers, current traffic services range in price from $20 to $120 a year.
Without doubt, there is a market for the kind of service Inrix has created, says Mark Dixon Bunger, who covers telematics as a principal analyst for Forrester Research. But predicting how well the company will do may be even trickier than predicting the traffic. “What is easy to say is that they’ve got great backing and they’ve got great finances. They’re in a much better starting position – but it is a starting position – than most other companies.”
In fact, Inrix already received $6.1 million in first-round venture funding in April from August Capital and Venrock Associates. If Bunger’s forecasts hold up, traffic prediction and dynamic routing will begin to make an impact in the marketplace within about five years. And if drivers have any luck, those predictions will mean they spend less time in gridlock.