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INRIX XD, on the left, can now show more detailed traffic information for a city like Seattle.

Most traffic technology out there does a fairly decent job of calculating the quickest route to your destination. But now INRIX, the Kirkland-based traffic data and technology company, is taking it to the next level.

Traffic jam ( photo)
Traffic jam ( photo)

On Tuesday, the company is set to debut INRIX XD Traffic, a new service that INRIX says covers more roads with greater precision than any other competitor.

Thanks to its patented algorithms that crunch petabytes of crowd-sourced traffic data from millions of places around the globe, INRIX can now detail traffic speeds down to 800 feet increments and on smaller, less busy roads previously not accounted for by anyone else.

The “XD,” stands for “extreme definition.” As you can see from the comparison above, INRIX XD provides a much more detailed snapshot of traffic information than what is currently available. The technology now covers four million miles — an increase of one million from what INRIX offered in the past — in 37 countries.

inrix“This creates the ability to decode stretches of roads into bite-sized pieces and understand what traffic speeds are exactly like and how it impacts traffic times and routing.” VP of Product Planning Scott Sedlik told GeekWire.

What gives INRIX’s big data platform an edge over old-school government traffic tracking methods is that it does not rely on a sensor network placed only on the busiest roads. Instead, the company fuses together loads of information from a variety of places — smartphones, fleet vehicles, GPS navigation systems, etc. — to determine what the actual speed on the roadways are and to quickly identify accidents and road closures.

“We need to break free from these shackles of traditional traffic technology and introduce this new mechanism to deliver traffic on any map,” Sedlik said.

inrixtrafficappINRIX, which spun out of Microsoft Research eight-and-a-half years ago and now employs 300, is mainly a B2B company that sells to five core verticals: the automotive market, mobile market, fleet market, media market, and the government/public sector (The Washington DOT uses INRIX’s data, for example). The data is not tied to a specific device or piece of software, which allows INRIX to layer its technology into a variety of map software applications, whether it’s for a TomTom device or BMW in-car navigation.

Speaking of BMW, INRIX also announced that it is expanding its partnership with the car-maker, providing its technology in 12 additional European countries. BMW previously used INRIX traffic data for all its new models in the U.S., U.K., France, Germany and Italy.

INRIX also signed a deal with Volkswagen to power the in-car navigation system for the 2013 GTI and GTD models. In addition, The Ohio Department of Transportation and San Francisco Bay Area 511 Services are also now using INRIX.

The traffic company, which has shown signs that it’s headed toward an initial public offering, says it can save governments money by keeping them from building traffic-monitoring infrastructure. For example, Seattle mayor Mike McGinn wants to improve traffic downtown by spending a couple million to install sensors and cameras.

“We could help a city like Seattle reduce that sensor infrastructure cost to do a project like that by 75 percent just by licensing data from us,” Sedlik said.

INRIX may remind you of Waze, the traffic company that Google bought this summer for more than $1 billion as a way to bolster its Maps app. Waze distinguished itself with real-time crowdsourced information, taking reports from drivers who use its navigation apps, and using that information to help inform other users.

This bridge in Skagit Valley collapsed in May.

INRIX does something similar with apps on iOSAndroidWindows PhoneWindows 8 and Blackberry. But Sedlik tells us that INRIX is an even better solution because it is sourcing extra information from its other partners and customers.

For example, when the bridge in Skagit Valley, Wash., collapsed earlier this year, the folks at INRIX immediately noticed an abrupt stoppage of traffic flow data. They knew something was wrong and decided to close the bridge on their maps. Shortly thereafter, the company validated exactly what went wrong with Washington DOT cameras.

“It’s all about the context,” Sedlik said. “While an app like Waze relies solely on someone to report something, we were able to call that road closed a half hour before they had it in their solution. That’s us reducing latency, and when you do traffic, latency is not your friend — if you’re a driver, you miss stuff and get incredibly frustrated when you’re told information after the fact. We tell you far enough in advance so you can do something before it’s too late.”

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