Auto Tech

Inrix pinpoints dangerous roads from crowdsourced car sensors

Traffic data aggregator Inrix launches its Road Weather service today, using sensor data from cars to pinpoint roads made dangerous by bad weather.

In this mock-up, Inrix shows how a car using its Road Weather service might warn a driver about a dangerous road situation ahead.

Inrix

Through traction control systems, modern cars know a lot about the roads they traverse. Traffic data company Inrix's new Road Weather product identifies dangerous stretches of road by aggregating the data these cars collect.

Using this service, your car could warn you about black ice or other hazards ahead, or pre-load an appropriate traction control program to keep you safe.

Inrix got its start by taking a big data approach to traffic, and currently aggregates traffic flow information from millions of cars on the road. The system uses GPS data transmitted from connected cars and smartphones to identify spots where traffic has slowed or stopped. By analyzing this real-time and historic data, Inrix can determine if there has been a particular incident or a normal traffic slowdown.

Although it won't divulge its customer list, Inrix claims it is gathering data from 250 million sources on the roads worldwide. These data sources could be as simple as a smartphone running the Inrix app or a car that comes with Inrix traffic data integrated into its navigation system.

Some of these Inrix-enabled cars also can report wheel sensor data, such as wheel slip due to ice, outside temperature and whether the windshield wipers are on. By correlating this information with GPS data, Inrix identifies specific sections of road where cars are encountering difficult conditions.

And, similar to traffic warnings shown on most of today's navigation systems, Inrix's Road Weather service sends a warning to cars approaching dangerous sections of road. Drivers can choose to be more careful or avoid that section of road altogether. Inrix has also partnered with Global Weather Corporation, a weather forecasting service, to refine its warnings.

No customers have been announced for the Road Weather service, and it may be some time before it appears in production cars. However, Inrix says it will appear in a new version of its app coming out later this year. Inrix also pointed out to CNET that municipal authorities can subscribe to the service and identify roads where traffic hazards and accidents are likely to happen, and issue appropriate warnings or take action to alleviate the situation.