Nokia Here research brings map data to life (video)

Nokia Here collection vehicles aren't the only way the Finnish giant is gathering data about our highways and city streets. The company's researchers are also using anonymous smartphone, PND and even CAN bus data to further our understanding of traffic flow and driver behavior in different conditions. Beyond improving maps and navigation, the goal is to make our roads better and cars smarter. We recently spoke with Nokia's Jane Macfarlane, Head of Research for Here, who shared how her team is bringing map data to life with the collaboration of opt-in smartphone users and fleet vehicle operators. Take a look at our gallery below and watch the video after the break.

Macfarlane showed us a video of traffic flow in the Bay Area -- San Francisco and Oakland, including the Bay Bridge, Golden Gate Bridge, Interstate 80, highways One and 101 -- over a 24-hour period. With colors representing different vehicle speeds (green for fast, yellow for medium and red for slow) it's easy to visualize how the traffic changes during the day and when / where hotspots exists. This data gives city and highway planners invaluable insight into ways to improve our roads.

Another example used CAN bus data collected from taxis in Eindhoven, The Netherlands, to study driver behavior around a sharp bend. By monitoring vehicle position, velocity, acceleration, heading and even windshield-washer settings (to name a few), her team was able to establish recommended speeds and brake points for the curve based on time-of-day and weather conditions. Moreover, the lateral acceleration data revealed the ideal center line for the road. This information could be used to warn drivers approaching the curve too fast at night or in the rain, for example, and would be invaluable for self-driving cars.

According to Macfarlane, one of the biggest challenges with this research is getting access to data in real-time without invading people's privacy -- it's something she's optimistic will improve as telematics become more widespread on modern cars and drivers gain more control over how CAN bus data is gathered.