By Julie Bort
Scott Olson/Getty Images
Nobody likes traffic jams. And we may not be forced to live with them for the rest of our lives.
Young startup UrbanEngines hopes to solve traffic jams by applying the lessons learned from keeping the internet up and running.
If anyone can do that, it's the founders of UrbanEngines. Balaji Prabhakar is a former Stanford professor and one of the world's authorities on "internet congestion" or how to keep internet sites up even when they get pounded with traffic.
Ditto for Shiva Shivakumar, who spent 10 years as an engineer at Google working his way up to vice president and helping build products like Gmail and AdSense.
Their idea is to watch real world traffic so cities can make changes on the fly when they see traffic problems coming, much the same as big internet companies like Google watches their websites.
YouTube/Community Balance UrbanEngines co-founder Balaji Prabhakar (Left)
Shiva Shivakumar UrbanEngines co-founder Shiva Shivakumar (Right)
The idea hit Prabhakar in December, 2007, when he was late for a meeting and "stuck in the mother of all traffic jams," he recounted to Business Insider.
It occurred to him that street traffic and internet traffic are the same problem, too many people trying to get to the same place at once.
He had helped solve internet congestion, could he do the same for real live traffic?
Shivakumar had a similar epiphany while working on Gmail. His team had just figured out how to a make each email open 50 nanoseconds faster. ...more