Although it's just starting to roll out in the United States, navigation systems that can recognize traffic congestion and route around it promises to be the killer app for commuters. At SEMA, I saw two of the big names in portable navigation, Magellan and Garmin, and their traffic-routing capabilities. Garmin offers either an XM satellite hookup or Clear Channel traffic reporting. Both services feed data into the navigation unit that shows whether there are traffic problems up ahead. The navigation unit can dynamically route around the congestion. Magellan hasn't signed up a service provider in the States yet, but it does have traffic reporting in Europe. The Magellan unit displays icons on its map that show what sort of traffic problems lie ahead. Magellan should have traffic reporting available in the United States by early next year.
Traffic routing has great potential, not least of all in ending frustrating hours of sitting in traffic. Fewer cars stuck in gridlock is also better for the environment, as the cars won't be stopped idling and emitting polutants. That lack of long periods of idling and stop-and-go traffic means less wear on the cars. Also, people get to work faster, and delivery trucks don't get stuck in that same traffic, which is all good for the economy. Of course, the negative side is that formerly quiet roads suddenly see an increase in traffic, and cities have to install more stop signs and traffic lights.