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Company Combines Cellphone, GPS Data in Attempt to More Quickly, Easily Count Traffic

StreetLight Data is trying to make counting cars happen a lot faster.

By combining cellphone and GPS navigation data, one startup thinks it can offer road traffic counts to government faster and cheaper.

StreetLight Data, one of the companies featured on the Gov Tech 100 list this year, has launched a new feature on its platform that can give users an Average Annual Daily Traffic (AADT) count using data the company gets from mobile sources. AADT is a metric that planners and other government officials use when assessing development.

And it’s often collected in a far more manual way, according to StreetLight Data. Simply pulling data from online, then, could save time and money associated with tasking people to count cars.

“New mobile device-based approaches are poised to change the way we have collected traffic counts for the past 50-60 years,” said Shawn Turner, senior research engineer for the Texas Transportation Institute, in a press release. “Soon, one- or two-day manual traffic counts may be as obsolete as hand-cranked car windows and bench seats.”

The company also believes it can offer far more comprehensive data to build the counts — a full year of travel data on a given road, as opposed to a local count performed over a couple of days.

According to a blog post from Laura Schewel, the founder and CEO of StreetLight Data, the company tested its algorithm against an AADT data set from the Virginia Department of Transportation and found that it was reliable on highways as well as smaller roads, so long as the AADT was above 400.

The company is hosting a webinar on June 16 to discuss how it approached building the metric.

Ben Miller is the associate editor of data and business for Government Technology. His reporting experience includes breaking news, business, community features and technical subjects. He holds a Bachelor’s degree in journalism from the Reynolds School of Journalism at the University of Nevada, Reno, and lives in Sacramento, Calif.