You can’t beat the physics, when you drive through a tunnel you lose a GPS signal. Most likely your navigation app will emulate your movement based on your last recorded location and speed but the fact is that it doesn’t know where it is. It might be a problem for some drivers in a large, complex tunnel system like the Big Dig in Boston.
Waze is trying to solve this issue and keep your smartphone location-aware even underground. The company launched a new open initiative for cities and tunnel operators to help cars and trucks continue seamlessly on their travels. The technology is based on Bluetooth beacons designed for installation on tunnel walls. The devices are built on Google’s open beacon format, Eddystone.
The pilot of the technology has been launched last week in two Pittsburgh tunnels, Fort Pitt and Liberty, and another in Israel but the plans are to test it also in Rio de Janeiro and Paris soon.
The cost of the technology is $28.50 per unit and Waze says a typical installation requires around 42 beacons per mile of tunnel so around $1200. The technology is open which means that it can provide data to other navigation apps providers as well as the city system itself.
Using Bluetooth beacons to monitor the traffic is not a new concept. In fact bluetooth traffic monitoring systems are one of the most commonly used technology in urban Intelligent Transportation Systems. The new approach is to use it the other way around, to allow cars better position themselves on the road rather than only gathering traffic data.
Like everything touched by Google (Waze is owned by Google) this might actually work on a global scale.