Nokia has been trialling a new traffic monitoring system that relies on internet-connected mobile phones fitted with GPS receivers in vehicles, which can send information about traffic flow patterns in real-time and calculate alternative routes. The project is called ‘Mobile Century’, and it involved the California Transportation Department and about 150 students from the University of California in Berkeley who acted as test drivers in the recent trial.

The students were sent out in three teams with different assigned routes in waves of three vehicles per minute, according to Cnet. Information about the location and speed of the vehicle were then relayed back to a central system where an image of the traffic flows could be generated. The system works in similar fashion to current real-time systems already being used in the U.S. such as XM and Sirius satellite radio services as well as Google and Yahoo’s online services. The problem with these systems is that they rely on a complex and expensive infrastructure of roadside and pavement-mounted sensors and cameras to collect data and they’ve found to be less accurate than mobile devices.

Nokia's project is still in the concept phase but the results of initial tests looks promising and there are plans for more extensive studies in the near future.