Tracking Cellphones for Traffic and Road Information
Several states have similar systems but nothing as extensive as Missouri's plan, and critics say tracking drivers' every move is too much like playing "big brother."
What this project means for Mid-Missouri cell phone users and drivers is instant traffic information. A great way to choose the quickest route to work in the morning if you're running behind. But what if to do this meant the government would be tracking your cell phone from your doorstep to your destination?
"Everyone's got a right to privacy, you know, and I don't think it's a good idea to track the cell phones," said cell phone user Beck Djuraev.
MODOT says this system is a better alternative to traditional methods of tracking traffic.
"By going to cell phone technology, there is no equipment for us to maintain or buy. It's all already out there, we're harnessing the technology that's already out there, and it's also much more cost effective," said Jeff Briggs of MODOT.
This method will depend simply on the signals cell phones send from tower to tower as they move along the highway. Knowing where these towers are in relation to the major roads, and seeing how fast the signals are moving will provide the traffic information.
Average speed, travel times to get from place to place and for all the thousands of cell phones that are moving along these heavily traveled highways, it's a very valuable information source. Most cell phones come with a global positioning system that can pinpoint your exact location. Now, this can be turned off, but Model's system won't depend on this.
Instead it will depend on the signal your phone gives off anytime it's turned on. So, cell phone users can simply turn their cell phone off to avoid being tracked when driving. MODOT wants the information they receive to be completely anonymous.
"MODOT won't know anything about the phone users. No names, no phone numbers, no nothing. We insist on that. It's a great way to get data, but we don't want any personal information on anybody," said Briggs.
But each cell phone has its own serial number because cell phone companies have to be able to track its phones. Some think this its a good money-saving alternative, as long as they're informed of all the details.
"It's something they should try out first on a limited scale to see if it worked and see if there are any infringements on our freedoms and rights, and offer full disclosure to the public," said cell phone user, John Quint.
MODOT says they wouldn't have even considered this if they weren't assured it'd be anonymous. MODOT hopes to finalize the contract within the next month and start tracking cell phones at the beginning of 2006.