(19)
(11)EP 3 092 462 B1

(12)EUROPEAN PATENT SPECIFICATION

(45)Mention of the grant of the patent:
10.06.2020 Bulletin 2020/24

(21)Application number: 15700130.6

(22)Date of filing:  09.01.2015
(51)International Patent Classification (IPC): 
G01C 21/32(2006.01)
G08G 1/01(2006.01)
(86)International application number:
PCT/EP2015/050348
(87)International publication number:
WO 2015/104383 (16.07.2015 Gazette  2015/28)

(54)

METHODS AND SYSTEMS FOR DETECTING A CLOSURE OF A NAVIGABLE ELEMENT

VERFAHREN UND SYSTEME ZUR ERKENNUNG DES SCHLIESSENS EINES NAVIGIERBAREN ELEMENTS

PROCÉDÉS ET SYSTÈMES DE DÉTECTION DE LA FERMETURE D'UN ÉLÉMENT NAVIGABLE


(84)Designated Contracting States:
AL AT BE BG CH CY CZ DE DK EE ES FI FR GB GR HR HU IE IS IT LI LT LU LV MC MK MT NL NO PL PT RO RS SE SI SK SM TR

(30)Priority: 10.01.2014 GB 201400382

(43)Date of publication of application:
16.11.2016 Bulletin 2016/46

(73)Proprietors:
  • TomTom Traffic B.V.
    1011 AC Amsterdam (NL)
  • TomTom Global Content B.V.
    1011 AC Amsterdam (NL)

(72)Inventors:
  • KESTING, Arne
    1011 AC Amsterdam (NL)
  • WITTE, Nikolaus
    1011 AC Amsterdam (NL)
  • MATTELAER, Jean-Claude
    1011 AC Amsterdam (NL)

(74)Representative: Swindell & Pearson Limited 
48 Friar Gate
Derby DE1 1GY
Derby DE1 1GY (GB)


(56)References cited: : 
WO-A1-2010/105712
US-A1- 2012 143 492
GB-A- 2 428 852
US-A1- 2013 162 449
  
  • Wendy Weijermars: "Analysis of urban traffic patterns using clustering", , 13 April 2007 (2007-04-13), XP055178169, Retrieved from the Internet: URL:http://doc.utwente.nl/57837/1/thesis_W eijermars.pdf [retrieved on 2015-03-20]
  
Note: Within nine months from the publication of the mention of the grant of the European patent, any person may give notice to the European Patent Office of opposition to the European patent granted. Notice of opposition shall be filed in a written reasoned statement. It shall not be deemed to have been filed until the opposition fee has been paid. (Art. 99(1) European Patent Convention).


Description

Field of the Invention



[0001] The present invention relates to methods and systems for detecting the closure of a navigable element, e.g. road element, in a navigable network of navigable elements.

Background to the Invention



[0002] Obtaining information about closures of navigable elements, e.g. roads of a road network, is important in a navigation system. The presence of a road closure has a significant impact upon routing through the road network. A road closure may be likened to a traffic jam associated with an "infinite delay", such that an alternative routing must be determined to avoid the affected road element(s). Knowledge of the existence of a road closure is of importance to road users even if they are not following a pre-calculated route. For example, if a user is following a familiar route, it is still useful for them to be aware if a road closure is present affecting the route so that they may determine an alternative route, with or without the assistance of a navigation system.

[0003] Road closure information may be provided to a user, e.g. together with other travel and traffic information, during navigation along a route via an in-vehicle navigation device, such as a portable device (PND) or integrated device, or may be provided as an input to an Advanced Driver Assistance System (ADAS) device. Road closure information may also be used for route planning, e.g. by a navigation or ADAS device, before commencing a journey, or to recalculate a fastest route during a journey if conditions change during traversal along the route.

[0004] A road closure is typically a dynamic event, temporarily affecting a road, and it is therefore desirable to be able to obtain information relating to road closures in the context of a "live" system, i.e. indicative of the relatively current condition of the road network.

[0005] Conventional systems for obtaining information about road closures typically rely upon data obtained from third parties. For example, such data may be included in "Traffic Message Channel" (TMC) messages that may be broadcast over an FM network, or other similar third party messages. Such information may be based upon data obtained from sources such as police reports, or road agencies/administrators. However, there are some drawbacks in relying upon third party data relating to road closures, since such data is not always accurate, and may not be up to date.

[0006] The Applicant has realised that there remains scope for improvement in methods and systems for obtaining information relating to the closure of a navigable element, e.g. for provision to users and/or navigation or ADAS devices.

[0007] US2013/0162449 discloses a traffic routing system that reduces emissions from commuter and other traffic, eases congestion on roadways, and decreases transit time by use of communications among vehicles and traffic controls, such as traffic lights. In one aspect, a traffic light receives a signal that a vehicle is approaching and in response turns green to allow the vehicle to pass without impairment. In another aspect, a vehicle receives a signal to adjust a current rate of speed to arrive when a traffic signal allows vehicles to pass. In still another aspect, a combination of congestion, emergency traffic, roadwork and similar factors influence proposed routes sent to vehicles.

Summary of the Invention



[0008] In accordance with a first aspect of the invention there is provided a method of detecting the closure of a navigable element forming part of a network of navigable elements within a geographic area according to claim 1.

[0009] Thus, in accordance with the invention, positional data relating to the movement of devices with respect to time ("probe data") is obtained in respect of each of a set of one or more navigable elements that are being tested to determine whether they are potentially closed. The positional data is used to determine a time that has elapsed since a device was last found in the navigable element for each navigable element. If the elapsed time exceeds an expected time interval between consecutive devices being detected in the navigable element, the navigable element is identified as being potentially closed.

[0010] Certain prior art techniques have attempted to identify closed navigable elements by reference to an absence of probe data indicative of movements of devices along the elements. However, such methods have tended to give rise to a large number of false positives. By introducing a step whereby an elapsed time since the previous probe device passed along the element is compared to an expected time interval between devices passing along the element, it is possible to determine with greater confidence when an elapsed time since a device passed along an element is sufficiently great to allow a conclusion of potential closure to be made. The comparison step enables those elements to be identified where the difference between the elapsed time since a last visit by a device and the expected interval between visits is sufficiently great to be indicative of a potential closure of the element.

[0011] The present invention extends to a system for carrying out a method in accordance with any of the embodiments of the invention described herein.

[0012] In accordance with a second aspect of the invention there is provided a system for detecting the closure of a navigable element forming part of a network of navigable elements within a geographic area according to claim 10.

[0013] It will be appreciated that any feature described by reference to the first aspect of the invention may equally be applied to embodiments in accordance with the second aspect of the invention and vice versa.

[0014] The present invention in these further aspects may include any or all of the features described in relation to the first and second aspects of the invention, and vice versa, to the extent that they are not mutually inconsistent. Thus, if not explicitly stated herein, the system of the present invention may comprise means for carrying out any of the steps of the method described.

[0015] The means for carrying out any of the steps of the method may comprise a set of one or more processors configured, e.g. programmed, for doing so. A given step may be carried out using the same or a different set of processors to any other step. Any given step may be carried out using a combination of sets of processors. The system may further comprise data storage means, such as computer memory, for storing, for example, data indicative of a determined potential closure, and/or the positional data used to determine the existence of a closure.

[0016] The methods of the present invention are, in preferred embodiments, implemented by a server. Thus, in embodiments, the system of the present invention comprises a server comprising the means for carrying out the various steps described, and the method steps described herein are carried out by a server.

[0017] The present invention considers positional data relating to the movement of a plurality of devices with respect to time along a navigable element to determine whether the element may be potentially closed. The steps of the methods in accordance with the invention in any of its embodiments are carried out in relation to each one of a set of one or more navigable element of the network, and are preferably carried out in relation to a set of a plurality of navigable elements. The navigable elements may be at least some of the navigable elements of the navigable network. The navigable elements may be any navigable elements in respect of which appropriate positional data is available to enable the method to be performed.

[0018] It will be appreciated that the network of navigable elements, and any navigable element, as referred to herein, are navigable elements of the real world or physical navigable network. The network may be represented electronically by digital map data. The digital map data may be stored by or otherwise accessible by the server, in embodiments in which the method is implemented using a server. In the digital map data, the navigable network is represented by a plurality of navigable segments connected by nodes, wherein a navigable element of the network may be represented by one or more navigable segments.

[0019] The present invention may be implemented in relation to navigable elements of any type. Preferably the navigable elements are road elements (of a road network). In some embodiments the navigable element(s) are elements of a highway, but it will be appreciated that the techniques are applicable to any type of road element, or indeed other type of navigable element, where appropriate positional data exists or can be determined. While exemplary embodiments refer to road elements of a road network, it will be appreciated that the invention is applicable to any form of navigable element, including elements of a path, river, canal, cycle path, tow path, railway line, or the like. For ease of reference these are commonly referred to as a road element of a road network. The present invention is therefore applicable to detecting a closure of any navigable element.

[0020] The positional data used in accordance with the invention is positional data relating to the movement of a plurality of devices along the or each navigable element with respect to time. The method may comprise obtaining positional data relating to the movement of a plurality of devices with respect to time in the network of navigable elements, and filtering the positional data to obtain positional data relating to the movement of a plurality of devices along the or each given navigable element to be assessed for potential closure with respect to time. The step of obtaining the positional data relating to the movement of devices along the or each navigable element may be carried out by reference to the digital map data indicative of the or each navigable element representing the navigable elements of the network. The method may involve the step of matching positional data relating to the movement of devices in a geographic region including the network of navigable elements to at least the or each navigable element that is being considered in accordance with the invention.

[0021] In some arrangements the step of obtaining the positional data may comprise accessing the data, i.e. the data being previously received and stored. For "live" positional data, it will be appreciated that the data may be stored shortly before being used, so that it may still be considered to be live data. In other arrangements the method may comprise receiving the positional data from the devices. In embodiments in which the step of obtaining the data involves receiving the data from the devices, it is envisaged that the method may further comprise storing the received positional data before proceeding to carry out the other steps of the present invention, and optionally filtering the data. The step of receiving the positional data need not take place at the same time or place as the other step or steps of the method.

[0022] The positional data used in accordance with the invention is collected from one or more, and preferably multiple devices, and relates to the movement of the devices with respect to time. Thus, the devices are mobile devices. It will be appreciated that at least some of the positional data is associated with temporal data, e.g. a timestamp. For the purposes of the present invention, however, it is not necessary that all positional data is associated with temporal data, provided that it may be used to provide the information relating to the movement of devices along a navigable element in accordance with the present invention. However, in preferred embodiments all positional data is associated with temporal data, e.g. a timestamp.

[0023] The positional data relates to the movement of the devices with respect to time, and may be used to provide a positional "trace" of the path taken by the device. As mentioned above, the data may be received from the device(s) or may first be stored. The devices may be any mobile devices that are capable of providing the positional data and sufficient associated timing data for the purposes of the present invention. The device may be any device having position determining capability. For example, the device may comprise means for accessing and receiving information from WiFi access points or cellular communication networks, such as a GSM device, and using this information to determine its location. In preferred embodiments, however, the device comprises a global navigation satellite systems (GNSS) receiver, such as a GPS receiver, for receiving satellite signals indication the position of the receiver at a particular point in time, and which preferably receives updated position information at regular intervals. Such devices may include navigation devices, mobile telecommunications devices with positioning capability, position sensors, etc.

[0024] Preferably the device is associated with a vehicle. In these embodiments the position of the device will correspond to the position of the vehicle. References to positional data obtained from devices associated with vehicles, may be replaced by a reference to positional data obtained from a vehicle, and references to the movement of a device or devices may be replaced by a reference to the movement of a vehicle, and vice versa, if not explicitly mentioned. The device may be integrated with the vehicle, or may be a separate device associated with the vehicle such as a portable navigation apparatus. Of course, the positional data may be obtained from a combination of different devices, or a single type of device.

[0025] The positional data obtained from the plurality of devices is commonly known as "probe data". Data obtained from devices associated with vehicles may be referred to as vehicle probe data. References to "probe data" herein should therefore be understood as being interchangeable with the term "positional data", and the positional data may be referred to as probe data for brevity herein.

[0026] The present invention may provide "live", i.e. short term, detection of closures based on current or near current data. For live positional data, it will be appreciated that the data may be stored shortly before being used, so that it may still be considered to be live data.

[0027] The method of the present invention preferably involves obtaining and using "live" positional data relating to the movement of a plurality of devices with respect to time along the or each navigable element that is assessed for closure in determining a potential closure of the navigable element. Live data may be thought of as data which is relatively current and provides an indication of relatively current conditions on each alternative navigable element. The live data may typically relate to the conditions on the elements within the last 30 minutes, 15 minutes, 10 minutes or 5 minutes. By using live positional data in determining the closure information, it may be assumed that the information determined is currently applicable, and may be applicable in the future, at least in the shorter term. The use of live positional data allows accurate and up to date closure information to be determined, that can be relied upon by road users and/or navigation devices or ADAS. Preferably the positional data that is used to determine the elapsed time since a device was last detected in the navigable element is or comprises live positional data.

[0028] In accordance with the invention the method comprises analysing the positional data to determine data indicative of an elapsed time since a device was last detected on the navigable element. The device is a probe device, i.e. a device in relation to which positional data relating to the movement of the device with respect to time along the navigable element is available. The device may be of any of the types described above, and is preferably associated with a vehicle. The device may be a navigation device, which may be an integrated device or a PND. The device may be any device which is capable of providing data indicative of the position of the device with respect to time. Likewise, the expected time interval that is used in embodiments of the invention (as discussed in more detail below) is an expected time interval between such probe devices being found on a navigable element.

[0029] The step of analysing the positional data to determine the data indicative of the elapsed time may be carried out in any suitable manner. The elapsed time is a time since a device was last detected in the navigable element. It will be appreciated that, e.g. a processor, may be arranged to automatically detect the presence of a probe device in a navigable element or elements of the network, and to monitor an elapsed time until a next device is detected in the element. This might be done by determining when a device is determined to traverse the one or more navigable segments of the digital map representative of the navigable element navigable, e.g. by determining when a device enters, exits or passes another reference point along the segment. As will be appreciated the determined elapsed time will be reset, i.e. begin counting again from zero, when another probe device is detected traversing the one or more navigable segments. The elapsed time may be monitored continually, or may be determined intermittently (at regular or irregular time periods). The steps of determining the elapsed time and comparing the elapsed time to an expected time interval between devices may be discrete steps. For example, the elapsed time may be monitored and an alert generated when this exceeds a threshold that s set by reference to the expected time interval for the element.

[0030] The determined elapsed time is compared to an expected time interval between devices detected on the navigable element. It is this step which may help to reduce the number of detected false positives. The expected time interval may be based upon actual detected time intervals between devices on the element, or may be derived using theoretical techniques, or combinations thereof. Thus, the interval is a statistical expectation of the period of time between which consecutive probe devices are expected to be detected traversing the navigable element; and may or may not be based upon intervals between actually detected devices. In embodiments of the invention the expected time interval is based upon historical positional data relating to the movement of devices, e.g. associated with vehicles, along the element with respect to time. In this case, it is envisaged that the historical data would be relatively recent, e.g. relating to the last day or two, so that it will still adequately represent the expected interval between probe devices travelling along the element. It will be appreciated that as the present invention is based upon the use of probe data, the expected time interval will typically be greater than an expected time interval between actual vehicles, as not every vehicle passing along the element will be associated with a device that provides data indicative of its position with respect to time to enable that enables the vehicle to be used as a probe vehicle. The expected time interval is preferably an average time interval; for example based upon a plurality of (detected) time intervals between consecutive pairs of devices passing along the element according to historical positional data.

[0031] The method may comprise storing data indicative of at least one expected time interval between consecutive vehicles detected on the navigable element, e.g. in association with digital map data indicative of the navigable element. The method may extend to determining the or each expected time interval. As will be appreciated, the expected time interval is therefore predetermined, and the method preferably comprises retrieving the predetermined value from a data storage means, e.g. memory.

[0032] In accordance with the invention, the applicable expected time interval is compared with the determined elapsed time. The expected time interval for a navigable element may be time dependent. Thus, a plurality of expected time intervals between devices passing along an element may be determined in respect of different time periods. The or each expected time interval may be an average time interval. The average time interval is then based upon time intervals between multiple different sets of consecutive detected devices in respect of a given time period. In some embodiments, multiple expected time intervals are associated with at least some of the elements. In this way when a comparison between the expected time interval and the elapsed time is performed, the applicable expected time interval for the appropriate time may be used. It may be for example that expected time intervals are calculated according to the time of the year, the day of the week and/or the time of day. As will be appreciated the expected time interval is likely to vary depending on the time of day, the day of the week and even the time of year. During peak times, the expected visit interval will be much lower than during off peak times, e.g. the night, weekends, or bank holidays. Consequently the provision of multiple expected time intervals is likely to give more accurate assessment as to the significance of the elapsed time since the last device passed along the element than a single expected time interval for an element.

[0033] In some embodiments one or more alternative expected time intervals are provided for use with an element within corresponding time periods allowing selection of the most appropriate interval at any given time based on one or more factors other than time dependent variation. Selection of an alternative interval for use may be appropriate in particular situations, for example in different weather conditions, or where a particular event such as a football game is occurring. Such situations may be considered factors other than time dependent variation. Such situations may be considered atypical.

[0034] In some embodiments alternative sets of time dependent expected time intervals are provided allowing selection of the most appropriate expected time interval based both on the time and on other factors. It may be for example that one set of time dependent expected time intervals is used if the weather is dry and another set if there is rain.

[0035] In any embodiment in which more than one expected time interval is available for a particular navigable element, the applicable time interval is used in the comparison step of the present invention, i.e. the time interval that is applicable to the current time and/or conditions.

[0036] In some embodiments, an expected time interval for a particular navigable element is scaled, e.g. based on the current time and/or conditions. For example, in an embodiment, the number of concurrent probe devices from which "live" data is currently being received can be used to scale the expected time interval. As will be understood, the number of concurrent probe devices will typically be higher during peak hours, and thus the expected time interval is preferably reduced during these hours and increased during off-peak hours, e.g. during the night, week-ends and/or bank holidays. Accordingly, there is an inverse relationship between the value of the expected time interval to be used in the method and the number of concurrent probe devices from which positional data is being received.

[0037] The method comprises comparing the determined elapsed time and the applicable expected time interval between devices for the or each navigable element, and, when the elapsed time exceeds (or exceeds by more than predetermined amount) the expected interval, identifying the navigable element as being potentially closed. This step may be carried out in any suitable manner, and is used to identify those elements for which the elapsed time exceeds the applicable expected time interval by a statistically significant amount. The amount by which the elapsed time must exceed the applicable expected time interval to be deemed appreciable may be set as desired, e.g. to reduce numbers of false positives.

[0038] The methods of the present invention are computer implemented, and may provide the ability to automatically detect potentially closed elements. The method may comprise automatically determining when an elapsed time exceeds the expected interval on a particular element by an appreciable amount, and automatically identifying that the navigable element is potentially closed. When a navigable element is identified as potentially closed, the method may comprise the step of automatically generating a message indicative of the potentially closed state of the element. The message may trigger further validation steps to be performed (e.g. as discussed in more detail below). It is envisaged that the methods of the invention may be implemented continually by a server or servers, as live positional data relating to the movement of devices in the navigable network is received.

[0039] By potentially closed, as used herein, it is meant that the navigable element is deemed to be potentially closed at least temporarily. The road closure may be a road closure as a result of roadworks.

[0040] The or each navigable element that is identified as being potentially closed is a candidate closed element. Preferably a plurality of candidate navigable elements are identified.

[0041] While it may be assumed with no further validation that a determined candidate closed element is indeed closed, preferably some additional validation is carried out to help further reduce false positives. The validation may take into account any factor or factors which would have an impact upon whether a detected interval between devices passing along the navigable element can be reliably considered to be indicative of the closure of the element. For example, where the quality of the digital map data representing the element is poor, a relatively long elapsed time since a device last passed along the element might be detected. However, this may simply be as a result of positional data relating to the movement of devices along the element not being properly matched to the element as a result of inaccuracy in the digital map data representing the position of the element in comparison to its real world position. In other words, a device which did pass along the navigable element during the elapsed time might not be detected, as it may be matched to a position that does not lie on the navigable element. Thus, an error in a digital map representing the navigable element is preferably taken into account. This may be by reference to a map matching error associated with the positional data indicative of the presence of a device on an element.

[0042] In accordance with the invention in any of its aspects or embodiments, the method preferably comprises attempting to match the positional data received from each of the plurality of devices to a position on a segment of one of a plurality of navigable segments of a digital map representing the network of navigable elements. This process may be referred to as "map matching", and may involve the use of various algorithms as known in the art. The method may comprise attempting to match each item of positional data to a position along one of the navigable segments of the digital map. As will be appreciated this process is used to associate received positional data with particular navigable segments of the digital map. In carrying out this map matching process, a map matching error indicative of a difference between a position indicated by the positional data, and the position on the navigable segment to which it is matched, may be derived in respect of each item of positional data. In embodiments, for each of the plurality of devices, the method may comprise attempting to match each positional data point to a position on a navigable segment of the digital map. A map matching error may be determined for each data point. Such a map matching error may arise for various reasons, such as, for example, general noise in the positional data signals and/or mapping errors, e.g. where a reference line of a navigable element is not correctly geo-referenced in the map such that the position of the navigable element represented by a segment of the electronic map does not precisely correspond to the actual position of the element in reality. The map matching error associated with each data point may be used in validating a candidate navigable element.

[0043] Similarly, a lack of reliability of the positional data may result in inaccurately long elapsed times being determined, e.g. where some positional data relating to devices passing along the element is missing, or attributed to other elements, etc. Likewise, where a lower than expected probe device density exists at the relevant time, i.e. where fewer than expected vehicles passing along an element are associated with a device for providing positional data for use in the methods of the invention, the expected interval may be inappropriately low, such that the difference between the elapsed time and expected interval may be deemed to be appreciably different, leading to an element being incorrectly identified as potentially closed. Alternatively or additionally, validation of a navigable element being potentially closed may be carried out using other sources of data which may corroborate the presence of a closure or otherwise. For example, traffic messages provided by a third party may indicate that the element is closed.

[0044] The validation may therefore take into account one or more of; a quality of the digital map data representing the navigable element, third party data relating to the closure of navigable elements of the network, the accuracy of the positional data used, and any combination thereof.

[0045] Preferably the method comprises validating each of the identified candidate navigable elements to identify a subset of the candidate elements that can be validated as being closed.

[0046] In accordance with the invention in any of its aspects or embodiments involving the determination of a closure of a navigable element, once a determination has been made that a closure exists affecting navigable element, and, in preferred embodiments, validated, the information may be used in various manners. In some embodiments the method comprises associating data indicative of the existence of the (preferably validated) closure with data indicative of the or each navigable element, e.g. in association with the one or more navigable segments of the digital map that represent the navigable element. The method therefore may comprise storing data indicative of the existence of the (preferably validated) closure, preferably in association with data indicative of the or each navigable element. The method may comprise using the determined data indicative of a closure in calculating a route and/or in providing traffic information, e.g. to devices associated with vehicles. The method may comprise providing information indicative of the determined (preferably validated) closure to a third party provider, e.g. a traffic information provider.

[0047] It will be appreciated that a navigable element that is determined to be closed may be represented by a portion of a navigable segment, or by portions of multiple navigable segments of the digital map. Therefore, in embodiments, the method comprises determining the start and end locations of the determined road closure with reference to locations along navigable segments of the digital map. This determined navigable stretch, which may comprise a portion or portions of one or more navigable segments, can be provided to devices and/or third parties in any suitable form, e.g. by being encoded using any suitable locations referencing techniques, such as OpenLR or AGORA-C.

[0048] As will be appreciated a navigable element as referred to herein is an element for a given direction of travel. The determined closure is therefore a closure affecting at least one direction of travel.

[0049] It will be appreciated that the methods in accordance with the present invention may be implemented at least partially using software. It will this be seen that, when viewed from further aspects, the present invention extends to a computer program product comprising computer readable instructions adapted to carry out any or all of the method described herein when executed on suitable data processing means. The invention also extends to a computer software carrier comprising such software. Such a software carrier could be a physical (or non-transitory) storage medium or could be a signal such as an electronic signal over wires, an optical signal or a radio signal such as to a satellite or the like.

[0050] The present invention in accordance with any of its further aspects or embodiments may include any of the features described in reference to other aspects or embodiments of the invention to the extent it is not mutually inconsistent therewith.

[0051] If not explicitly stated herein, the term "elapsed time" refers herein to the elapsed time since a device was last detected on the navigable element according to the positional data, unless the context demands otherwise. The term expected time interval refers to the (applicable) expected time interval between consecutive devices detected on the navigable element. The devices are probe devices. References to the elapsed time or expected time interval may be replaced by reference to "data indicative of" the relevant parameter if not explicitly stated.

[0052] Any reference to comparing one item to another may involve comparing either item with the other item, and in any manner.

[0053] It should be noted that the phrase "associated therewith" in relation to one or more segments or elements should not be interpreted to require any particular restriction on data storage locations. The phrase only requires that the features are identifiably related to an element. Therefore association may for example be achieved by means of a reference to a side file, potentially located in a remote server.

[0054] Advantages of these embodiments are set out hereafter, and further details and features of each of these embodiments are defined in the accompanying dependent claims and elsewhere in the following detailed description.

Brief Description of the Drawings



[0055] Various aspects of the teachings of the present invention, and arrangements embodying those teachings, will hereafter be described by way of illustrative example with reference to the accompanying drawings, in which:

Figure 1 is a flow chart illustrating the steps of a method for detecting the closure of a road element in accordance with an embodiment of the invention; and

Figure 2 shows a visual representation of a digital map with an indication of a determined road closure.


Detailed Description of the Preferred Embodiments



[0056] The present invention is, in preferred embodiments at least, directed to methods and systems for determining the closure of a road element of a network of road elements. Accurate determination of the existence of road closures is important in a navigation system, or simply as additional travel information to drivers. A road closure will have an impact on possible routes between an origin and a destination, necessitating alternative routes around the closed element to be used. In practice, the existence of a road closure has an effect on the road network comparable to a traffic jam of infinite severity. Whether or not a route is pre-calculated, it is important to users of a navigation system to be informed of road closures so that they can take a different route if needed. The present invention provides a method for more reliably, and automatically, detecting closures.

[0057] A preferred embodiment of the invention will be described by reference to the flow chart of Figure 1. The method exemplified by Figure 1 is realised in a live system using live positional data, e.g. GPS probe data available for analysis within a short period of time, e.g. 3 minutes. The probe data is vehicle probe data received from devices associated with the vehicles, e.g. GPS devices, whose position corresponds to that of the vehicle. The probe data may alternatively be referred to as "positional data". The probe or positional data is associated with temporal data. The probe data can be used to derive probe traces relating to travel of probe vehicles along specific road elements in a road network. The positional data may be matched to road segments of a digital map representing the network of road elements.

[0058] The steps of the method will be described by reference to determining whether a given road element is closed. The steps described below would be carried out for each road element that is tested.

[0059] The road element is associated with data indicative of one or more expected time intervals; the time interval being the expected time interval between consecutive devices being detected on the road element. A plurality of expected time intervals may be stored, each in respect of a given time period and/or given weather conditions. For example, expected time intervals may be provided for off peak and peak times each day, or for corresponding time periods e.g. 10 minute intervals on specific days of the week etc. The number of expected time intervals derived may be chosen as desired to provide a balance between accounting for significant fluctuations in traffic frequency along the road element during the day and/or week, and avoiding the need to carry out excessive amounts of processing or data storage. In other embodiments, differences in traffic density during the day may be taken into account by scaling an expected time interval value based on the number of concurrent probe devices in the relevant geographic area from which positional data is being received. Accordingly, the expected time interval would be reduced in peak hours, while it is increased during off-peak hours, such as at night, weekends and bank holidays.

[0060] The expected time interval data may be based upon historical positional data relating to the movement of devices associated with vehicles along the road element in the relevant time period to which it applies, i.e. historical vehicle probe data. The time intervals between consecutive probe vehicles being detected on the road element according to the historical probe data may be determined for a number of pairs of consecutive probe vehicles in the time period of interest. This may be done by matching the positional probe data to road segments of a digital map representing the real world road elements. An average time interval may then be derived, and used as the expected time interval for that time period. In using historical vehicle probe data to derive the expected time intervals for the road element, relatively recent historical data should be used, to ensure that the determined expected time intervals provide a reasonable reflection of the time intervals that might be expected at the current time. Thus, at peak times, considerably smaller time intervals would be expected than during the night, weekends or holiday periods. It is envisaged that a road segment of a digital map representing the road element may be associated with data indicative of each expected time interval. It will be appreciated that the expected time interval relates to the expected time interval between the appearance of consecutive probe vehicles on the road element, rather than any vehicle. Only a minority of vehicles passing along the road element would normally be expected to be probe vehicles, i.e. having devices associated therewith that are able to transmit their position with timing information, and used in accordance with the invention. Thus the expected time interval would typically be significantly greater than the time interval between any consecutive vehicles passing along the road element. An expected time interval between probe vehicles may be obtained by determining an expected time interval between any vehicles found on the element, and then scaling this value to account for the proportion of vehicles passing along the element that can be expected to be probe vehicles.

[0061] In accordance with step 1 of the method, a server obtains live positional data relating to the movement of devices with respect to time along the road element of interest. The server may receive live probe data directly from devices in the road network, or may obtain such data, e.g. from another server that is in communication with the devices. The server is arranged to monitor a time which has elapsed since the last probe device was found to be present on the road element. For example, an elapsed time may be measured from the appearance of a particular probe vehicle on the road element. The elapsed time may be reset once the next probe vehicle is found to be on the road element. This process may be carried out by matching live positional data to road segments of a digital map representing the road network, and considering the elapsed time between the appearance of successive probe vehicles on the road segment.

[0062] As described above, the road element is associated with one or more expected time intervals, being the expected time intervals between consecutive devices being detected on the road element. These may be associated with one or more road segments of a digital map representing the road element. In step 2, the server compares the applicable expected time interval and the determined elapsed time for the road element. The applicable expected time interval is the time interval that is relevant to the current time and conditions, e.g. for the relevant timeslot on the particular day of the week.

[0063] The server determines whether the elapsed time for a road element exceeds the applicable expected time interval for that element, or exceeds the applicable expected time interval by a predetermined amount. The amount by which the elapsed time must exceed the applicable expected time interval may be set as desired, and should be chosen so as to reduce the likelihood of a false positive determination of closure, but while resulting in reasonably rapid identification of potentially closed elements. In general the amount should be such that that the elapsed time must exceed the applicable expected time interval by a statistically significant amount.

[0064] Where the server determines that the elapsed time for the road element exceeds the applicable expected time interval for the element, the element is deemed to be potentially closed, and provides a candidate potentially closed element - step 3. If the elapsed time does not appreciably exceed the applicable expected time interval for the element, the element is assumed to still be open.

[0065] The server carries out steps 1, 2 and 3 in relation to a plurality of road elements of the road network. For example, this process may be carried out in relation to all road elements for which appropriate live probe data is available, with the server monitoring the elapsed time since last detection of a probe device on the element for each element. It is envisaged that the server may be arranged to automatically detect when the elapsed time for a particular element in the road network exceeds a threshold based on the applicable expected time interval. The element may then be identified as a candidate closed element. This process may be carried out by a server by applying appropriate filters to the live probe data relating to the road network. When a candidate potentially closed element is identified, the server generates a message identifying the element as a closure candidate.

[0066] Before assuming that a candidate road element is closed for any purpose which requires closure data, the candidate road elements are subjected to an additional validation process to provide a subset of elements that can be considered to be closed with a greater degree of confidence, i.e. validated closed elements - step 4. There are various factors that may mean a road element that is detected as being a candidate closed element is not in fact closed. Such factors would be those factors which may result in an incorrectly long elapsed time since the last device was detected in the road element being determined. One factor that may have this effect would be a map matching error. In determining the elapsed time since the last device was found on a road element, the server carries out map matching of the vehicle probe data to the road segments of a digital map. As known in the art, this involves attempting to match each received position from a device to a position along a road segment of the map. Where a received position does not correspond to a position along such a segment, it may be possible to match the position to the segment, where the position differed from the position of the segment by less than a threshold deemed allowable for the position to be matched to the segment, with an appropriate map matching error indicative of the difference between the observed position according to the data, and the position on the map to which it has been matched. In some cases, however, it is not possible to match a received position to a position along a road segment of the digital map, at least within an allowable map matching error for the system. This may be the case where the course of the real life road element differs substantially from that of the road segment of the digital map intended to represent it, e.g. due to a change in course of the road element that is not reflected in the map data or simply an error in the map data.

[0067] When a significant map matching error exists in relation to a position of a probe device, it is possible that the positional data relating to a probe device that did travel along a road element in the real world will not be matched to the road segment representing the road element. In other words, visits to the road element by some devices may not be detected. This may result in a falsely high elapsed time since last detection of a probe device in a road element being made, potentially causing an element to be wrongly identified as closed.

[0068] Another factor that may result in a road element being incorrectly identified as closed would be the accuracy of the probe data itself.

[0069] Thus, the validation process preferably takes into account one or both of the quality of the digital map data used in matching the probe data to road segments in the road network, and the accuracy of the probe data. Alternatively or additionally, the validation process may involve using other sources of data to verify that an element is closed or otherwise. For example, third party data identifying road closures in the network may be used. If a road element is reported closed according to such data, this may increase confidence that the element is indeed closed. Other sources of data might be data that provides an indication of whether an element has recently been traversed other than by consideration of vehicle probe data, e.g. using fixed traffic sensors, etc.

[0070] The result of the validation process will be a more limited subset of road elements that can be assumed to be closed. Data indicative of the road elements whose closure has been validated may be used as desired. For example, the data may be transmitted to another server, or directly to navigation devices or ADAS systems associated with vehicles for use e.g. in route planning. The data may be provided as part as a traffic update transmission. Thus, the server may store the data, generate a message indicative thereof, and/or disseminate the data for use by navigation devices or ADAS systems associated with vehicles, or to another server, etc.

[0071] Figure 2 shows a visualisation 10 of the road network geographic area, created using data from a digital map representative of the road network. Following the completion of the method depicted in Figure 1 a road stretch 12 has been identified as being closed. A message 14 associated with the determined road closure contains information such as: an internal identifier; a location (e.g. with respect to the digital map); a length of the road stretch determined to be closed; an event type identifier (in this case identifying that the stretch of road is closed); and a start time (indicating when the stretch was first determined to be closed).


Claims

1. A method of detecting the closure of a navigable element forming part of a network of navigable elements within a geographic area, the method comprising:

obtaining positional data relating to the movement of a plurality of devices along the navigable element with respect to time;

using the positional data to determine an elapsed time since a device was last detected on the navigable element;

comparing the determined elapsed time to an expected time interval between consecutive devices being detected on the navigable element, wherein the expected time interval is based upon historical positional data relating to the movement of devices along the navigable element with respect to time; and

identifying the navigable element as being potentially closed when the determined elapsed time exceeds the expected time interval by one or more of:

a predetermined amount, and

a statistically significant amount.


 
2. The method of claim 1, wherein the obtained positional data comprises live positional data, and wherein the live positional data comprises current or near current data, the method comprising:
using the live positional data to determine the elapsed time since a device was last detected in the navigable element.
 
3. The method of claim 1 or 2, wherein the devices are devices associated with vehicles.
 
4. The method of any preceding claim, further comprising determining a plurality of expected time intervals for the navigable element in respect of different time periods, wherein when the comparison between the elapsed time and the expected time interval is performed, the applicable expected time interval for the appropriate time period is used.
 
5. The method of any preceding claim, wherein the expected time interval is an average time interval based upon time intervals between multiple different sets of consecutive devices detected in the navigable element in a given time period.
 
6. The method of any preceding claim, wherein the expected time interval is scaled in dependence on the number of devices traversing the network of navigable elements at a given time from which positional data is obtained.
 
7. The method of any preceding claim, further comprising associating data indicative of a determined closure with data indicative of the navigable element.
 
8. The method of any preceding claim, wherein the navigable element identified as being potentially closed provides a candidate closed navigable element, the method further comprising:
validating candidate closed navigable elements to identify a subset of the candidate elements that have been validated as being closed, wherein the validation takes into account one or more of: a quality of the digital map data representing the navigable element; a quality of the positional data; and third party data relating to the closure of navigable elements in the network.
 
9. The method of claim 8, further comprising associating data indicative of a determined, and validated, closure with data indicative of the navigable element.
 
10. A system, preferably a server, for detecting the closure of a navigable element forming part of a network of navigable elements within a geographic area, the system comprising:

means for obtaining positional data relating to the movement of a plurality of devices along the navigable element with respect to time;

means for using the positional data to determine an elapsed time since a device was last detected on the navigable element;

means for comparing the determined elapsed time to an expected time interval between consecutive devices being detected on the navigable element, wherein the expected time interval is based upon historical positional data relating to the movement of devices along the navigable element with respect to time; and

means for identifying the navigable element as being potentially closed when the determined elapsed time exceeds the expected time interval by or more of:

a predetermined amount, and

a statistically significant amount.


 
11. A computer program comprising instructions which, when the program is executed by a computer, cause the computer to carry out the method according to any one of claims 1 to 9
 
12. A computer readable medium comprising instructions which, when executed by a computer, cause the computer to carry out the method according to any one of claims 1 to 9.
 


Ansprüche

1. Verfahren zum Erkennen der Sperrung eines navigierbaren Elements, das Teil eines Netzwerks von navigierbaren Elementen in einem geografischen Gebiet bildet, wobei das Verfahren Folgendes beinhaltet:

Einholen von Positionsdaten über die Bewegung mehrerer Geräte entlang des Navigationselements mit Bezug auf Zeit;

Benutzen der Positionsdaten zum Bestimmen einer verstrichenen Zeit seit dem letzten Erkennen eines Geräts auf dem navigierbaren Element;

Vergleichen der bestimmten verstrichenen Zeit mit einem erwarteten Zeitintervall zwischen dem Erkennen konsekutiver Geräte auf dem navigierbaren Element, wobei das erwartete Zeitintervall auf historischen Positionsdaten in Bezug auf die Bewegung von Geräten entlang des navigierbaren Elements mit Bezug auf Zeit basiert; und

Identifizieren des navigierbaren Elements als potentiell gesperrt, wenn die bestimmte verstrichene Zeit ein erwartetes Zeitintervall um eines oder mehrere der Folgenden überschreitet:

einen vorbestimmten Betrag, und

einen statistisch signifikanten Betrag.


 
2. Verfahren nach Anspruch 1, wobei die erhaltenen Positionsdaten Live-Positionsdaten umfassen und wobei die Live-Positionsdaten aktuelle oder nahe aktuelle Daten umfassen, wobei das Verfahren Folgendes beinhaltet:
Benutzen der Live-Positionsdaten zum Bestimmen der verstrichenen Zeit seit dem letzten Erkennen eines Geräts in dem navigierbaren Element.
 
3. Verfahren nach Anspruch 1 oder 2, wobei die Geräte mit Fahrzeugen assoziierte Geräte sind.
 
4. Verfahren nach einem vorherigen Anspruch, das ferner das Bestimmen mehrerer erwarteter Zeitintervalle für das navigierbare Element mit Bezug auf unterschiedliche Zeitperioden beinhaltet, wobei beim Vergleichen zwischen der verstrichenen Zeit und dem erwarteten Zeitintervall das anwendbare erwartete Zeitintervall für die geeignete Zeitperiode benutzt wird.
 
5. Verfahren nach einem vorherigen Anspruch, wobei das erwartete Zeitintervall ein durchschnittliches Zeitintervall auf der Basis von Zeitintervallen zwischen mehreren unterschiedlichen Sätzen von in dem navigierbaren Element in einer gegebenen Zeitperiode erkannten konsekutiven folgenden Geräten ist.
 
6. Verfahren nach einem vorherigen Anspruch, wobei das erwartete Zeitintervall in Abhängigkeit von der Anzahl von Geräten skaliert wird, die das Netzwerk von navigierbaren Elementen in einer gegebenen Zeit durchqueren, ab der Positionsdaten eingeholt werden.
 
7. Verfahren nach einem vorherigen Anspruch, das ferner das Assoziieren von eine bestimmte Schließung anzeigenden Daten mit das navigierbare Element anzeigenden Daten beinhaltet.
 
8. Verfahren nach einem vorherigen Anspruch, wobei das als potentiell gesperrte identifizierte navigierbare Element ein gesperrtes navigierbares Kandidatenelement bereitstellt, wobei das Verfahren ferner Folgendes beinhaltet:
Validieren von gesperrten navigierbaren Kandidatenelementen zum Identifizieren eines Teilsatzes der Kandidatenelemente, die als gesperrt validiert wurden, wobei die Validierung eines oder mehrere der Folgenden berücksichtigt: eine Qualität der das navigierbare Element darstellenden digitalen Kartendaten; eine Qualität der Positionsdaten; und Fremddaten in Bezug auf die Sperrung navigierbarer Elemente in dem Netzwerk.
 
9. Verfahren nach Anspruch 8, das ferner das Assoziieren von eine bestimmte und validierte Sperrung anzeigenden Daten mit das navigierbare Element anzeigenden Daten beinhaltet.
 
10. System, vorzugsweise ein Server, zum Erkennen der Sperrung eines navigierbaren Elements, das Teil eines Netzwerks von navigierbaren Elementen in einem geografischen Gebiet bildet, wobei das System Folgendes umfasst:

Mittel zum Einholen von Positionsdaten in Bezug auf die Bewegung von mehreren Geräten entlang des navigierbaren Elements mit Bezug auf Zeit;

Mittel zum Benutzen der Positionsdaten zum Bestimmen einer verstrichenen Zeit seit dem letzten Erkennen eines Geräts auf dem navigierbaren Element;

Mittel zum Vergleichen der bestimmten verstrichenen Zeit mit einem erwarteten Zeitintervall zwischen auf dem navigierbaren Element erkannten konsekutiven Geräten, wobei das erwartete Zeitintervall auf historischen Positionsdaten in Bezug auf die Bewegung von Geräten entlang des navigierbaren Elements mit Bezug auf Zeit basiert; und

Mittel zum Identifizieren des navigierbaren Elements als potentiell gesperrt, wenn die vorbestimmte verstrichene Zeit das erwartete Zeitintervall um mehr als eines der Folgenden überschreitet;

einen vorbestimmten Betrag, und

einen statistisch signifikanten Betrag.


 
11. Computerprogramm, das Befehle umfasst, die bei Ausführung des Programms durch einen Computer bewirken, dass der Computer das Verfahren nach einem der Ansprüche 1 bis 9 durchführt.
 
12. Computerlesbares Medium, das Befehle umfasst, die bei Ausführung durch einen Computer bewirken, dass der Computer das Verfahren nach einem der Ansprüche 1 bis 9 durchführt.
 


Revendications

1. Procédé de détection de la fermeture d'un élément navigable faisant partie d'un réseau d'éléments navigables au sein d'une aire géographique, le procédé comprenant :

l'obtention de données de position relatives au mouvement d'une pluralité de dispositifs le long de l'élément navigable par rapport au temps ;

l'utilisation des données de position afin de déterminer un temps écoulé depuis qu'un dispositif a été détecté la dernière fois sur l'élément navigable ;

la comparaison du temps écoulé déterminé à un intervalle de temps escompté entre des dispositifs consécutifs qui sont détectés sur l'élément navigable, l'intervalle de temps escompté étant basé sur des données de position historiques relatives au mouvement de dispositifs le long de l'élément navigable par rapport au temps ; et

l'identification de l'élément navigable comme étant potentiellement fermé lorsque le temps écoulé déterminé dépasse l'intervalle de temps escompté de ou de plus de :

une quantité prédéterminée, et

une quantité statistiquement significative.


 
2. Procédé de la revendication 1, dans lequel les données de position obtenues comprennent des données de position en direct, et les données de position en direct comprenant des données actuelles ou quasi-actuelles, le procédé comprenant :
l'utilisation des données de position en direct afin de déterminer le temps écoulé depuis qu'un dispositif a été détecté la dernière fois dans l'élément navigable.
 
3. Procédé de la revendication 1 ou 2, dans lequel les dispositifs sont des dispositifs associés à des véhicules.
 
4. Procédé d'une quelconque revendication précédente, comprenant en outre la détermination d'une pluralité d'intervalles de temps escomptés pour l'élément navigable par rapport à des laps de temps différents, dans lequel lorsque la comparaison entre le temps écoulé et l'intervalle de temps escompté est réalisée, l'intervalle de temps escompté applicable pour le laps de temps approprié est utilisé.
 
5. Procédé d'une quelconque revendication précédente, dans lequel l'intervalle de temps escompté est un intervalle de temps moyen basé sur des intervalles de temps entre de multiples ensembles différents de dispositifs consécutifs détectés dans l'élément navigable dans un laps de temps donné.
 
6. Procédé d'une quelconque revendication précédente, dans lequel l'intervalle de temps escompté est mis à l'échelle en dépendance du nombre de dispositifs traversant le réseau d'éléments navigables à un instant donné à partir duquel des données de position sont obtenues.
 
7. Procédé d'une quelconque revendication précédente, comprenant en outre l'association de données indicatives d'une fermeture déterminée à des données indicatives de l'élément navigable.
 
8. Procédé d'une quelconque revendication précédente, dans lequel l'élément navigable identifié comme étant potentiellement fermé fournit un élément navigable fermé candidat, le procédé comprenant en outre :
la validation d'éléments navigables fermés candidats afin d'identifier un sous-ensemble des éléments candidats qui ont été validés comme étant fermés, dans lequel la validation tient compte d'un ou plusieurs éléments parmi : une qualité des données cartographiques numériques représentant l'élément navigable ; une qualité des données de position ; et des données de tiers relatives à la fermeture d'éléments navigables dans le réseau.
 
9. Procédé de la revendication 8, comprenant en outre l'association de données indicatives d'une fermeture déterminée, et validée, à des données indicatives de l'élément navigable.
 
10. Système, de préférence un serveur, pour détecter la fermeture d'un élément navigable faisant partie d'un réseau d'éléments navigables au sein d'une aire géographique, le système comprenant :

des moyens pour obtenir des données de position relatives au mouvement d'une pluralité de dispositifs le long de l'élément navigable par rapport au temps ;

des moyens pour utiliser les données de position afin de déterminer un temps écoulé depuis qu'un dispositif a été détecté la dernière fois sur l'élément navigable ;

des moyens pour comparer le temps écoulé déterminé à un intervalle de temps escompté entre des dispositifs consécutifs qui sont détectés sur l'élément navigable, l'intervalle de temps escompté étant basé sur des données de position historiques relatives au mouvement de dispositifs le long de l'élément navigable par rapport au temps ; et

des moyens pour identifier l'élément navigable comme étant potentiellement fermé lorsque le temps écoulé déterminé dépasse l'intervalle de temps escompté de ou de plus de :

une quantité prédéterminée, et

une quantité statistiquement significative.


 
11. Programme informatique comprenant des instructions qui, lorsque le programme est exécuté par un ordinateur, amènent l'ordinateur à réaliser le procédé selon l'une quelconque des revendications 1 à 9.
 
12. Support lisible par ordinateur comprenant des instructions qui, lorsqu'elles sont exécutées par un ordinateur, amènent l'ordinateur à réaliser le procédé selon l'une quelconque des revendications 1 à 9.
 




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Cited references

REFERENCES CITED IN THE DESCRIPTION



This list of references cited by the applicant is for the reader's convenience only. It does not form part of the European patent document. Even though great care has been taken in compiling the references, errors or omissions cannot be excluded and the EPO disclaims all liability in this regard.

Patent documents cited in the description