When looking at your GPS for directions or for a way to navigate around hairy traffic situations, it’s likely not often you think too hard about how the information is getting there. After all, you have some place to go. But when you stop to consider the marvel that is your standard GPS, you may wonder just how it all actually works. While a lot of that data is coming from the help of satellites and road sensors with traffic tracking technology, a great deal of what you see relies on a human touch. So who are these mysterious traffic people and how do they do it? Keep reading and we’ll help demystify the process a little.
The above picture shows a few of our Traffic Operators working the night shift in our operations center in Wilmington, De. This office, along with our office in Madison, runs from 5:30 a.m. to 9:30 p.m. before handing off coverage to our partner office in Shanghai, China until 5:30 a.m. the following morning—meaning TrafficCast is a 24/7 operation. Traffic never sleeps and neither does our coverage. We divide all 50 states (along with areas of Canada and Mexico) into “markets” which are assigned to each operator. Operators work in the same markets each day, allowing them to learn the regions like the back of their hand. This familiarity allows them to quickly navigate areas and track any potential traffic impacts.
You’ll notice a wall of TVs in the front of the space. This helps us keep tabs on incidents impacting traffic from a variety of sources including: DOT highway cameras, Facebook and Twitter live streams, weather reports, national news, and more. Whether it’s traffic jams, derailed trains, wildfires, hurricanes, or a truckload of chickens running loose on a highway (yes this has happened, and quite recently at that) it all comes across our TV screens for operators to monitor. The more eyes on the road, the better.
You’ll also see each operator utilizes three computer monitors at their workstation. This means their heads are, quite literally, always on a swivel. While the TV wall helps the office track the most severe traffic situations, multiple monitors allow operators to survey their respective markets at a rapid pace. Monitoring Social Media, DOT, news, maps, and of course our own curation system to produce the most accurate and up-to-date information possible.
Hopefully this gives you a bit more insight to the work that helps guide you on your everyday journeys. For more information about what’s going on here at TrafficCast or for news on the latest and greatest updates on the transportation industry, follow us @TrafficCast on Twitter.