Startup Aims to Prevent Traffic Jams Via Unique Technology Mobile App

Traffic jams typically produce little more than frustration, profanity, and CO2. Four years ago, though, they happened to give Christian Brüggeman an idea.

He was sitting in a London Starbucks with a friend and fellow computer science student. As they chatted, they noticed that one street outside was choked with cars while another was practically empty.

They wondered why drivers weren’t taking advantage of every possible route. If cars could be directed along less-congested roads, wouldn’t that prevent back-ups before they began?

Imagine Cup Grants 2012 grand prize winner, Germany’s Team Graphmasters, was awarded US$100,000 for its innovative navigation system designed to help reduce the CO2 emissions of cars, which  proactively routes city traffic by calculating the best route for each car.

That idea ultimately became nunav, navigation software that aims to stop congestion and get its users from Point A to Point B as fast as possible. While existing services like Bing Maps can show commuters real-time traffic jams and offer alternate routes, nunav can prevent jams from happening in the first place by predicting where cars are headed, Brüggeman said.

Here’s how it works: nunav tracks the location and destination of every user in its network, currently through a Windows Phone app. Meanwhile, its routing algorithms also crunch data about surrounding streets, such as the number of lanes and speed limits, to calculate the maximum number of cars they can carry before traffic bottlenecks. nunav then “reserves” spots for drivers along their routes, making sure each road never reaches maximum capacity.

Voila – no more traffic jams, no more lost productivity, and no more needless CO2 emissions.

In computer simulations involving 50,000 cars, nunav users get to their destinations twice as fast and use significantly less fuel, Brüggeman said. Now he wants to transition nunav from simulations and trials to a market-ready product. The former university students who created nunav have launched their own company, Graphmasters, to try and sell nunav’s routing algorithms to manufacturers of navigation systems.

nunav drew notice from industry, press and venture capitalists earlier this year after winning the Environmental Sustainability Award, sponsored by Coca Cola, at the 2012 Imagine Cup Worldwide Finals. The young company can expect more attention.

Today at the Social Innovation Summit, Microsoft announced Team Graphmasters, formerly Team Greenway, was among the five winners of the second annual Imagine Cup Grants program.

“Through Microsoft YouthSpark, we’re aiming to create opportunities for 300 million young people around the world over the next three years. We want to give youth greater opportunities for education, employment and entrepreneurship and the Imagine Cup grants, a three-year, US$3 million competitive program that enables Imagine Cup participants to take their projects to market as the next step in their business development, is a great example of the innovative ways we’re creating these opportunities for young people,” said Akhtar Badshah, senior director, Citizenship & Public Affairs, Microsoft.

Badshah said Team Graphmasters represented the growing number of Imagine Cup teams that keep working after the competition to bring their solutions to market.

“One reason we were so excited to expand the Imagine Cup is because of Microsoft’s commitment to invest and provide opportunities for youth so they can imagine and realize their future,” he said. “The Imagine Cup Grants are this interesting way to help these teams that are imagining what the future can look like and then trying to go out and realize it.”

Brüggeman said the $100,000 grant will go toward expanding his company and hiring developers, marketers and sales staff to help bring nunav to users worldwide.

He added that the Imagine Cup helped his team make the leap from interesting research idea to actual business. “We are computer scientists,” Brüggeman said. “We can program and write software, but we had never thought about starting a company before.”

The competition’s focus on social issues resonated with them as well. Sitting in Starbucks, the students’ coursework had taken them deep into graph theory – a complex branch of computer science that powers nunav’s routing algorithms. The Imagine Cup inspired them to turn that initial spark at Starbucks into a project that could help the planet.

“We’re happy we found an application for our research that saves the environment, saves your wallet, and that’s good for everyone,” Brüggeman said.


Samir Saleem

An innovative and dynamic marketing expert having worked for both local and multinational organisations,having expertise in leading diverse assignments on devising digital/social media marketing strategies, promotions, public relations and business development. As an experienced social media strategist and business analyst, he manages several brands via his 2nd Startup Hybrid Signals (www.hybridsignals.com) Samir is an award winning technology and social media blogger and can be reached at samzbest@gmail.com

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