Dedicated Automobile Traffic Monitor with Raspberry Pi

[j3tstream] wanted an easier way to monitor traffic on the roads in his area. Specifically, he wanted to monitor the roads from his car while driving. That meant it needed to be easy to use, and not too distracting.

[j3tstream] figured he could use a Raspberry Pi to run the system. This would make things easy since he’d have a full Linux system at his disposal. The Pi is relatively low power, so it’s run from a car cigarette lighter adapter. [j3tstream] did have to add a custom power button to the Pi. This allows the system to boot up and shut down gracefully, preventing system files from being corrupted.

After searching eBay, [j3tstream] found an inexpensive 3.2″ TFT LCD touchscreen display that would work nicely for displaying the traffic data. The display was easy to get working with the Pi. [j3tstream] used the Raspbian linux distribution. His project page includes a link to download a Raspbian image that already includes the necessary modules to work with the LCD screen. Once the image is loaded, all that needs to be done is to calibrate the screen using built-in operating system functions.

The system still needed a data connection. To make things simple and inexpensive, [j3tstream] used a USB WiFi dongle. The Pi then connects to a WiFi hot spot built into his 4G mobile phone. To view the traffic map, [j3tstream] just connects to a website that displays traffic for his area.

The last steps were to automate as much as possible. After all, you don’t want to be fumbling with a little touch screen while driving. [j3tstream] made some edits to the LXDE autostart file. These changes automatically load a browser in full screen mode to the traffic website. Now when [j3tstream] boots up his Pi, it automatically connects to his WiFi hotspot and loads up local traffic maps.

31 thoughts on “Dedicated Automobile Traffic Monitor with Raspberry Pi

      1. I am guessing Tim that you live in the USA and seldom travel out of the country. Living in the UK I can tell you that the UK and Europe have a high percentage of smartphone users. Sometimes you build things like this for personal needs or just fun!!

      2. Someone here would really need to open his mind, and stop the TV….

        Did you hear about Rosetta? Airbus? Rafale? Nao? GSM simply (formalized by European Telecommunications Standard Institute)?

      3. Smartphones are very common in Paris and Europe! The coverage of mobile provider pretty much better in Europe then in the U.S.. We have paved roads and color tv in Europe too ;-)

    1. Most likely it is illegal to operate a (smart)phone and drive a car at the same time. here in Holland you can’t even hold a phone in your hand whilst driving and i assume legislation in other EU countries won’t be very different.

    1. It seems to me that all the hardware part would be taken care of by purchasing a low-end Android tablet (touch screen, GPS, probably lower power consumption, lower cost(?)…). Learning to program for Android takes some time, but will probably work out to be a more reliable system than what you’ve built, hardware-wise at least. Still it takes dedication to take a project like this from scratch to results and I congratulate you, bien joué :).

      1. Look at it this way: have an low-end unhackable blackbox android, vs. having homebrew software on wel-hackable and opensource RBP in the same price range. Not a though choice. Fun project and easily repurposed someday perhaps. I personally find no such fun in MT7xxx and MT6xxx china phones or Android Studio.

        1. What programming? What custom software?

          Any way I look at it, the guy assembles ready-made parts and starts up a web browser.

          Full stop.

          This gets him on HaD.

          Read this again.

          Starting up a web browser gets people on HaD now.

        2. Yea, I thought this article would be more about the nice PHP, API calls, and Pi browser configuration. Not about a home web page to maps.google.com. At least it could be a pun on traffic monitoring with a home bru Barracuda Networks Load balancer…

    1. Not even Google Maps but Sytadin, a website dedicated to parisian traffic (that was created 10 years before Google Maps was launched in France).

      Except for learning, that’s clearly not worth the effort.

  1. So that 4g phone he uses as a hotspot doesn’t have Google Maps? ;’)

    Seriously though, I’m curious as to why other than for the challenge. I don’t really see that he’s done anything to make this stand out over what a smartphone offers. Certainly it has the potential to do so.

      1. That explains it. He uses a separate RPi with LCD to run a web browser so he can still hold the phone up to his ear while driving and simultaneously look at the traffic display.

  2. Google maps on my tablet or smartphone to the same thing here in the states. “Dumb” GPS units don’t monitor traffic in real time and if you live in a crowded area google maps rule.

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