Real-time transit information is among the most valuable assets commuters have. But as anyone with a transit app on their smartphone knows, it’s also incredibly elusive. The availability and reliability of trains, buses, bikes, and Ubers depends on a thousand grief-giving gears. For residents of neighborhoods that are already underserved by transit, and who might not have a smartphone at all, figuring out the best route from A to B is all the more challenging.
Sidewalk Labs, the Google arm developing technological solutions to urban problems, announced with the U.S. Department of Transportation Thursday that it is building “Flow,” a digital platform that seeks to address the real-time transit problem and more. Flow will aggregate and analyze mobility data from a great number of sources—including Google Maps, Waze, municipal data, and eventually, remote traffic sensors—to identify what’s causing congestion and which areas need what kind of service.