|COMMISSION NEWS RELEASE|
|Pa. Turnpike Launches Hands-Free, Eyes-Free and Cost-Free Traveler Alert Smartphone App
TRIP Talk streams audio advisories to iPhone and Droid users on America's First Superhighway.
|HARRISBURG, PA (09/02/2011)(readMedia)-- Motorists on the Pennsylvania Turnpike can now be forewarned about problems that could impact their travels thanks to an innovative smartphone application unveiled today. The Pa. Turnpike Commission launched a new iPhone and Droid application that reads audio alerts to travelers when there's a closure or delay in their way.
"One of our biggest communications challenges has been to inform customers about incidents before they enter the system, and especially getting word to anyone who's already on the road. Today, smartphone technology has evolved that enables us to answer that longtime challenge," said Turnpike Chief Operating Officer Craig R. Shuey. "Whether customers then decide to reroute, stop for a cup of coffee at the next travel plaza or stay the course, the choice is theirs. It's like having a crystal ball that allows smartphone users see what's ahead on the Turnpike."
TRIP Talk senses your position and direction on the Turnpike and "talks" to you when it detects trouble spots nearby. Unlike other travel-alert tools out there, TRIP Talk is hands free and eyes free. Just turn it on before you depart, and it does the rest.
"It provides up-to-the minute information about accidents, construction or bad weather for the sections of Turnpike you're approaching, making you a better-informed driver," Shuey said. "And because you don't have to look at or touch the phone once you launch the app, it can also help make you a safer driver. All you have to do is listen and drive."
To download the free app, Pa. Turnpike travelers can visit http://www.paturnpike.com/triptalk. Users do not have to create an account, register or sign up with the Turnpike to use TRIP Talk. The app uses your phone's built-in GPS to stream nearby advisories.
Once activated, the application remains on during the trip, broadcasting travel-condition alerts reported within a pre-established mile range. The app picks a default range based on your region, but users can customize settings that work best for them. Conditions are broadcast once, and the broadcast stream stays quiet until it receives an alert update or when the user comes in range of a new alert. The app replays alerts that are still in range after a certain interval selected by the user. If the user gets or makes a call while an alert is playing, the alert will pause and resume playing when the call is ended.
"The Pennsylvania Turnpike has a 70-year legacy of innovation that began in 1940 when it opened as America's First Superhighway," Turnpike Chairman William K. Lieberman said. "This spirit of innovation continues today with the pioneering use of a smartphone application which gives our customers a new tool to help them reach their destinations faster and hopefully safer."
The Pennsylvania Turnpike is partnering with State Farm Insurance, whose sponsorship is helping to defray application-development and hosting costs and to provide ongoing resources for future application enhancements and revisions. The company, headquartered in Bloomington, Ill., has also supported the Turnpike's State Farm Safety Patrol since 2007.
"As the #1 auto insurer in Pennsylvania, State Farm takes its leading role seriously-making every effort to continue to enhance roadway safety for all motorists," said Agency Field Consultant Michelle Neils. "Our partnership with the Pennsylvania Turnpike has allowed us to accomplish that, first through the State Farm Safety Patrol and now with the TRIP Talk smartphone application. Both provide a truly remarkable experience for Pennsylvania motorists."
TRIP Talk was developed in collaboration with Voicenet Communications Inc., Philadelphia, which is the Pa. Turnpike's longtime web provider. It is built on Voicenet's patent-pending Open Microphone Platform - a queue-driven, voice-streaming technology that leverages the onboard GPS in smartphones.
"Beyond the 'set-it-and-forget-it' convenience of this app, the other benefit is that it helps the commission accomplish some central customer-service and safety goals," said Voicenet Chief Operating Officer Mary Farrell. "It allows them to keep travelers up-to-date about roadway conditions, and fits in well with the ongoing Text-Free Turnpike campaign to reduce incidents of distracted driving."
The app is one of several ways the Pa. Turnpike communicates with motorists through its Turnpike Roadway Information Program (TRIP). Via TRIP, motorists can sign up to become Preferred Travelers and receive customized e-mail or text-message alerts about traffic and weather conditions. There's also an online travel-conditions map at www.paturnpike.com/webmap and the toll-free TRIP line - 1-866-976-TRIP (8747) - that travelers can use to check Turnpike conditions.