Every day, cell phones become more and more of a travel companion than say, a warm body in the passenger seat.  Now cell phones provide an invaluable service that will supercede the mindless communication between two parties meant to ease the tension traffic jams can inevitably cause.  In fact, with this new technology, people may be able to curb their time spent in any, or all traffic jams. 

Radio traffic reports that occur every ten minutes is too big of a window to rely upon for commuters, not to mention, it detracts from other stress relieving activities, such as singing along to music on the radio.  The alternative to radio traffic reports is email, or text messages, sent directly to a commuter’s cell phone. 

Commuters must first register at www.iltrafficalert.com.  Then, they can choose dozens of traveled routes to receive traffic reports about, from suburban streets to expressways and tollways.  Commuters can also provide the system with planned travel times and the days in which they wish to receive messages.  In return, commuters will receive customized reports via their cell phone, providing travel times, construction work, road closures, congestion and accident reports, and avergage vehicle speeds. 

There are two disadvantages to the program.  For one, it takes four to five minutes for road sensors to transmit information to the system, and another couple minutes for the alerts to be sent to commuters; therefore alerts report on happenings that occurred about seven minutes before commuters receive the messages.  And for two, motorists must take their eyes off the road to read the alerts on their cell phones.  This of course puts people in danger. 

The operators of the system, hope to alleviate these problems by decreasing the time to send the reports, and they also hope to send the reports directly into the global navigation systems located in many commuters’ cars.  Many commuters are enthralled with the idea; however, they bring up a good point.  The use of cell phones while driving in the city of Chicago is illegal and punishable by way of fines.  How does the govenment intend to handle this problem?  Will it be ok to receive traffic alerts on the cell phone, but not ok to talk on the cell phone while driving? 

The traffic alert system was developed in conjunction with the University of Illinois at Chicago Department of Computer Science and the Delcan Corporation. 

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