INRIX unveiled its new Road Weather tool on Tuesday, the latest example of how the Seattle-area company is turning the 100 million vehicles in its network into mobile data collectors monitoring roads around the globe.
Most major car manufacturers, like Ford and BMW, already share speed and direction information with INRIX. In exchange, navigation systems in those vehicles get to show users INRIX real time traffic maps.
But now, the next time you skid on black ice and your car’s traction control kicks in, there’s a pretty good chance that data will find its way onto INRIX servers, too. If multiple cars skid at the same spot, Inrix will mark black ice on the road and start warning other drivers headed that way.
The Road Weather tool can do the same thing with data from other sensors inside cars, like windshield wiper data to warn drivers about heavy rain, and headlights for fog. It takes anonymous data from millions of cars, pairs it with normal “sky weather” and then spits out real time “road weather” maps.
“It’s about not just knowing it’s cold out so there might be some slick roads,” INRIX chief marketing officer Steve Banfield said. “We can tell you exactly where you’ll have standing water, black ice, fog. And it’s all about improving driver safety.”
The data can also be used by local governments to know where they need to send crews during emergency situations and which streets still need to be plowed after heavy snows.
INRIX hasn’t announced any customers yet for the new service, but it’s the kind of thing that could be added to the navigation systems in vehicles already powered by the company. Now that the service has launched, it will be up to each automaker to decide which vehicles get the service.
This is just the latest big data tool Inrix has rolled out recently as the company expands beyond the traffic monitoring business it has been known for since it was founded in 2004. In May, the company launched a platform that uses its traffic data to inform decisions like billboard and retail store placement. In June, it showed off a new tool that predicts open parking spots on city streets by monitoring car movement.