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In what would be the largest project of its kind, the Missouri Department of Transportation is finalising a contract to monitor thousands of cell phones, using their movements to map real-time traffic conditions statewide on all 5,500 miles of major roads.

It’s just one of a number of initiatives to more intelligently manage traffic flow through wireless data collection.

Cell phone monitoring already is being used by transportation officials in Baltimore, though not yet to relay traffic conditions to the public. Similar projects are getting underway in Norfolk, Virginia, and a stretch of Interstate 75 between Atlanta and Macon, Georgia.

But the Missouri project is by far the most aggressive — tracking wireless phones across the whole state, including in rural areas with lower traffic counts, and for the explicit purpose of relaying the information to other travelers.

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