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Drivers in Kenya to get rush-hour help from text messages

NAIROBI, Kenya, Nov. 25 (UPI) -- Drivers trying to negotiate the notoriously crowded streets of rush-hour Nairobi in Kenya may soon get help from a text message service, its developers say.

Starting this month, the Twende Twende (Swahili for "Let's go, let's go") service, developed by IBM's Research Africa lab in Nairobi, will inform drivers of traffic jams and suggest alternate routes to bypass the congestion, NewScientist.com reported Monday.

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Kenya's capital city, which has more than 3 million people, is plagued by rush-hour delays.

"Most motorists don't follow traffic rules and small inconveniences like a minor traffic accident or even a sudden downpour can cause delays of up to an hour," Nairobi small business owner John Kimani said.

While cities in developed countries have vast networks of traffic cameras, Nairobi has just 36, so the IBM researchers had to develop an algorithm that could extrapolates traffic conditions on the 98 percent of Nairobi's streets not covered by cameras.

"If we have two isolated parallel streets with a single connecting street, and we know the ingress and egress numbers for cars on each of the parallel streets, we can estimate how many cars are taking a street connecting them," IBM Research Africa's chief scientist Uyi Stewart said.

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To use Twende Twende, motorists send a free text message reporting where they are and their desired destination, and receive a message in return with traffic conditions and route recommendations.

The more the system is utilized the more accurate it will get, Stewart said.

"The more they use it, the more the system learns, the better it gets," he said.

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