Korea Expressway Uses Big Data to Predict Traffic Conditions over Holidays
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Korea Expressway Uses Big Data to Predict Traffic Conditions over Holidays
KEC publishes live traffic information on its website, roadplus.co.kr, from 2008 after analyzing info and data on traffic conditions from 300 tollgates; KEC to build highway linking Seoul and Sejong City for completion in 2025

01(Mon), May, 2017

President Kim Hak-song of Korea Expressway Corp. (Photos: KEC)

The Korea Expressway Corp. (KEC) publishes live traffic information on its website, roadplus.co.kr, but now it can forecast road conditions in advance, similar to how a weather service used data to predict future weather patterns. 

Maps and graphs displaying traffic predictions on the nation’s highways during Lunar New Year were already up by mid-January, weeks before the holiday began.

Maps with roads colored in green, yellow and red displayed expected congestion levels by the hour. A bar graph showed expected driving hours between major cities like Seoul and Busan by taking into account the average time it took for cars to reach each tollgate.

With the bevy of navigation apps and traffic condition reports available to drivers, many may take these forecasts for granted. But it was only less than 10 years ago that the idea of traffic forecasting came into being, a science that was made possible through improvements in big data analysis.

“After the chaotic congestion during the Chuseok [Mid-Autumn Festival] holiday in 2007, we started building up a system to support traffic forecasts and began the service in 2008,” said Namkoong Seong, director of transport research at the Korea Expressway Corporation and the first traffic forecaster in Korea. “What drivers want to know is not traffic information of the past or even right now. They want to know about future traffic situations they will actually find themselves in.”

Before 2008, the corporation delivered only real-time traffic data. For example, it could only say how many hours it took for a car that already arrived in Busan to get from Seoul. Now the corporation is able to make predictions. It collects data from over 300 tollgates, which record the type of car and time of passage through each gate. Vehicle detection systems, which measure car speed and traffic levels, have been installed every 1 to 2 kilometers, covering roughly 4,000 kilometers. All this information is sent to the corporation’s traffic information center and research institute for analysis.

Every day, about 200 million pieces of data - that’s 20 gigabytes of information - flows through the traffic tracker’s computers. The corporation has been accumulating the data since 2007 and keeps it all in a database. The predictions combine big data collected from the past and real-time traffic data from 5,760 closed-circuit televisions set up on highways as well as weather forecasts from the Korea Meteorological Administration.

The government said April 13 that it will build a new expressway linking Seoul and the administrative city Sejong by 2025 in a bid to reduce traffic congestion.

Since 2012, 36 government agencies in Seoul with more than 10,500 officials have moved to Sejong in North Chungcheong Province, 120 kilometers south of Seoul, in an effort to spur the regional economy there as well as reduce the capital's concentration of traffic.

If completed, travel time from Seoul to Sejong will be reduced 38 minutes-70 minutes, making it easier for people to commute as well as contribute to the regional economy in satellite cities located in rural areas.

According to the meeting held by economy and finance related ministries, building the 129-kilometer highway with six lanes will cost 6.7 trillion won ($5.74 billion). The government will spend 1.4 trillion won and raise the remaining 5.3 trillion from private companies. Of the 129-kilomerters, the construction of a 71-kilometer road linking Seoul to Anseong, Gyeonggi Province, will start as early as next year, and is expected to be completed by 2020.

It will be jointly conducted by Korea Expressway Corp. and a private company that wins the bidding on the contract.

The construction of the remaining 58-kilometer part will begin in 2020 and be completed by 2025.

A view of the Seoul Tollgate of the Geyongbu (Seoul-Bunsan) Expressway, suffering from a bottleneck with bump-to-bump cars.

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