Evaluation of traffic data obtained via GPS-enabled mobile phones: The Mobile Century field experiment

Juan C. Herrera, Daniel B. Work, Ryan Herring, Xuegang (Jeff) Ban, Quinn Jacobson, Alexandre M. Bayen

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The growing need of the driving public for accurate traffic information has spurred the deployment of large scale dedicated monitoring infrastructure systems, which mainly consist in the use of inductive loop detectors and video cameras. On-board electronic devices have been proposed as an alternative traffic sensing infrastructure, as they usually provide a cost-effective way to collect traffic data, leveraging existing communication infrastructure such as the cellular phone network. A traffic monitoring system based on GPS-enabled smartphones exploits the extensive coverage provided by the cellular network, the high accuracy in position and velocity measurements provided by GPS devices, and the existing infrastructure of the communication network. This article presents a field experiment nicknamed Mobile Century, which was conceived as a proof of concept of such a system. Mobile Century included 100 vehicles carrying a GPS-enabled Nokia N95 phone driving loops on a 10-mile stretch of I-880 near Union City, California, for 8. h. Data were collected using virtual trip lines, which are geographical markers stored in the handset that probabilistically trigger position and speed updates when the handset crosses them. The proposed prototype system provided sufficient data for traffic monitoring purposes while managing the privacy of participants. The data obtained in the experiment were processed in real-time and successfully broadcast on the internet, demonstrating the feasibility of the proposed system for real-time traffic monitoring. Results suggest that a 2-3% penetration of cell phones in the driver population is enough to provide accurate measurements of the velocity of the traffic flow. Data presented in this article can be downloaded from http://traffic.berkeley.edu.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)568-583
Number of pages16
JournalTransportation Research Part C: Emerging Technologies
Issue number4
StatePublished - Aug 2010
Externally publishedYes


  • GPS-enabled cell phones
  • Mobile sensors
  • Traffic monitoring systems
  • Traffic sensors

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Civil and Structural Engineering
  • Automotive Engineering
  • Transportation
  • Computer Science Applications


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