Why no live traffic on the iPhone?

With millions of iPhones in use today, Apple has an opportunity to create a real-time traffic condition reporting system. Current traffic information systems provided by XM and other are notoriously inaccurate, despite charging customers each month for the service.

Between the built-in GPS receiver, triangulation from cell towers, and the built-in accelerometer, Apple could have the iPhone upload its location, speed, and direction to a central server at predefined intervals. This information would be completely anonymized, retaining the phone’s IMEI just long enough to verify it as an actual iPhone, but recording no other personally identifiable information.

From these millions of iPhones, Apple could record traffic patterns 24 hours per day, correlating the traffic history of a given freeway with time of day, the day of the week, and even holidays and weather. After a few years, Apple would be able to predict the percentage chance of encountering a delay along a given route. The driver would enter the starting location and destination into the iPhone, and the route could be presented with both real-time traffic and predicted delays, and could be recalculated as circumstances changed.

What would such a service be worth to Apple’s customers? I’ll bet most would be willing to spend at least $5 per month for such an accurate system.

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