Traffic apps that alert users about upcoming delays aren’t new.
Mobile app Waze, for instance, has turned the navigation experience into a community event thanks to a crowd-sourcing approach where drivers notify one another of upcoming road closures, police traps and traffic conditions -- dotting maps with an array of colorful notification icons.
It’s a useful tool.
But what if drivers could actually see what’s happening at a particular location on their vehicle screens when they’re 5 miles -- or even a couple states -- away?
Detroit technology company Lochbridge wants to bring this ability to the center stack through its LAYR infotainment system.
Imagine driving down a highway when a traffic alert pops up on your vehicle screen or mobile device.
What do you do? You know traffic is coming, but you’re not sure how bad the jam is. It could be a bumper-to-bumper mess that adds an hour to your trip, or a temporary slowdown that clears in a minute or two.
Should you stay the course or hop off at the nearest exit and try to leapfrog the traffic?
Lochbridge doesn’t want drivers to go into these situations blind anymore.
Allowing motorists to peek ahead by pressing a camera icon on the vehicle screen at a particular location where a feed is available will give them the context needed to make an informed decision.
There may be traffic “3 or 4 miles ahead, but maybe a mile ahead of you, it starts to open up a little bit,” said Bob Kennedy, Lochbridge’s vice president of automotive, during a LAYR demonstration for Automotive News last week.
“You might be patient enough to wait that extra mile instead of jumping off at the exit right here and navigating through back roads.”
Kennedy said a live feed could’ve helped him during a recent excursion during which he exited the highway to take back roads to beat the traffic. Of course, things didn’t go as planned when he discovered that two bridges were out on his impromptu detour.
If he had known how bad the traffic on the highway was in the first place, he may have stayed the course on his original route.
Lochbridge, a former Compuware unit, has integrated its system with TrafficLand, a company that provides live feeds from more than 18,000 traffic cameras in over 200 cities. A brief demonstration of LAYR’s navigation system on Detroit’s highways showed hundreds of camera icons that provided live look-ins.
The live feeds are actually snapshots that are getting refreshed in a way that makes them look like video feeds, said Raj Paul, Lochbridge’s vice president of automotive and emerging technologies.
The rollout of faster 4G LTE connectivity, Paul said, could be a boon that supercharges this kind of technology.
Lochbridge has set up LAYR as a one-stop shop of personalized, contextually relevant offerings that are powered by the cloud.
If a car is driven by multiple people, the goal is to have them tap their near-field communication-equipped phones somewhere in the vehicle so it knows who they are. Near-field communication is a short-range wireless communications technology that’s behind Apple Pay.
Each person would have their own profile in LAYR that knows their musical tastes and preferred points of interest.
LAYR can fetch available location-based offers from nearby restaurants, which show up momentarily on the screen with a quick response code that people can scan with their phones to redeem.
LAYR also can detect fuel levels and, in turn, search for nearby gas stations.
During the demo, company logos for several nearby gas stations along with prices appeared on the screen. The system picks up preferences as well, so if the driver likes Marathon, LAYR will help them navigate there.
Lochbridge is hoping to introduce this level of context to the center stack sooner than later. The company is competing in Ford’s Connected Car-Connected City App Pursuit contest this week at the Los Angeles Auto Show.
Many of LAYR’s perks could be seen in its contest entry, dubbed myLifeSync, which is described as an app that is “an intelligent companion inside and outside the car, bringing information together to reduce driver workload and increase safety.”
Paul said utilizing the cloud takes pressure off the display unit. Instead of being confined to the car, he said, drivers should be able to set their infotainment preferences online using their computers if they want.
Paul said, “The goal is to make it completely in the cloud, so you have the option to sit in your car and do things, but then you can always do them in the leisure of your living room.”