GPS Systems with Real-Time Traffic Data Can Save Drivers Four Days Per Year (and Lots of Carbon Emissions, too)


Photo credit: stevendamrom @ Flickr

Getting stuck in traffic sucks. While traffic jams have an uncomplicated cause -- too many dang cars -- the solution isn't quite so simple; there's no getting away from them completely in the foreseeable future. While we wait for high-speed rail to come to the U.S., there's some good news that can help cut back on time wasted in traffic jams and carbon emissions. According to a new study, cars equipped with GPS navigation systems with real-time traffic info can save American drivers a hefty four days -- and 21 percent of their cars' carbon emissions -- a year.


Photo credit: Keng Susumpow via Flickr/Creative Commons

The study was conducted in two metropolitan areas of Germany - Dusseldorf and Munich -- which evaluated drivers without a navigation system, drivers with a navigation system, and drivers with a navigation system that included real-time traffic. Published by NAVTEC (a provider of digital map, traffic and location data for in-vehicle and other portable platforms -- more on that in a sec), the study revealed that the drivers using traffic enabled navigation devices experienced dramatic time savings, spending 18 percent less time driving on an average trip versus drivers without navigation. Here's the really important part, though: Not only did that time reduction equal more than four days per year for U.S. drivers, the resulting decrease in distances driven and increase in fuel efficiency would lead to a decrease of .79 metric tons -- that's over 1700 pounds -- in CO2 emissions per driver, or 21 percent less than a driver without a navigation system.

Still, there a few grains of salt worth noting. The study was conducted in Germany, and the results reflect more than 2,100 individual trips, more than 20,000 kilometers (over 12,000 miles) and almost 500 hours on the road; all that adds up to lots of data, but exact benefits of something like this will vary wildly by location, car type, and other variables. Also worth noting: NAVTEC is in the business of navigation, so we're taking the details with a bit of healthy skepticism. Still, we've been waiting for a breakthrough like this (and Google is helping, too), so it's still pretty awesome even if the exact numbers will be a bit different for everybody.

And, while this study speaks to the potential of such a system, it's worth mentioning that the positive green impact pales in comparison to biking, walking, or telecommuting -- 21 percent is good, but not as good as 100 percent. And when was the last time you got stuck in traffic on the way to your home office?

More to come on this promising technology, for sure. Read the whole release at NAVTEC via AutoblogGreen
More on green commuting
Next Generation of GPS Devices Will Save More Fuel
Google Tracking Traffic with Maps and Your Smart Phone
How to Go Green: Commuting
Why Are Bike Commuters Happier Than You?
Trend Watch: Multi-Modal Commuting with Folding Bikes

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