Using two of the most innovative commuter smartphone applications out there -- Waze and Roadify -- the New Cities Foundation conducted a study in San Jose, Calif., to help cities worldwide better understand how real-time social networking among commuters can enhance the overall commuting experience and improve traffic management, Phys.org reported.

During the study -- which was performed by the San Jose Department of Transportation and the University of California's Mobile Millennium team from the Center for Information Technology Research in the Interest of Society (CITRIS), in partnership with Sony Ericsson -- researchers compared drivers who used the apps with those who didn't, and found that app users were partially placated by the sense of community the apps gave them, despite the traffic.

"The daily commute is one of the most painful parts of urban life. This is true in most cities around the world, rich and poor, old and new," Naureen Kabir, Director of the New Cities Foundation Urban Lab, told Phys.org. "Our vision for this study is to determine how real-time information sharing between commuters can influence the development of new technologies, policies and other innovations that improve commuting in metropolitan areas throughout the world. We are excited about the results and we hope that cities, research labs and companies will use the findings as a starting point for further urban innovations in this important field."

The ability to share and receive information in real-time while in traffic created a sense of community for connected drivers, the study found, but such tools also have potential to alleviate traffic problems by sharing alternative routes for drivers. The Connected Commuting Task Force encouraged cities like San Jose to consider technologies such as crowd-sourced traffic apps while attempting to solve problems like traffic congestion.