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Microsoft introduces tool for avoiding traffic jams

Microsoft recently introduced a Web-based service for driving directions that incorporates complex software models to help users avoid traffic jams.

The New York Times reported that the new service's software technology, called Clearflow, was developed over the last five years by a group of researchers of artificial intelligence technology at the company's Microsoft Research laboratories. It is an ambitious attempt to apply machine-learning techniques to the problem of traffic congestion. The system is intended to reflect the complex traffic interactions that occur as traffic backs up on freeways and spills over onto city streets.

The Clearflow system will be freely available as part of the company's website ( for 72 cities in the United States. Microsoft says it will give drivers alternative route information that is more accurate and attuned to current traffic patterns on both freeways and side streets.

A system for driving directions that Microsoft introduced last fall was limited, because without Clearflow there was no information available about traffic conditions on city streets adjacent to the highways. Because the system assumed that those routes would be clear, drivers were on occasion sent into areas that were more congested than the freeways.

Hey, Tony, how much for "yo cah?"

After the sale last year of some minor props from the HBO series "The Sopranos," collectors wondered what the cars from the show would eventually bring. Well, as the New York Times recently reported, the results are in. At Barrett-Jackson's auction last month in West Palm Beach, Fla., Tony Soprano, as always, came out on top. Of the eight cars auctioned, his white 2003 Cadillac Escalade ESV brought the most, $45,000. The black 2000 Cadillac DeVille driven by Vito Spatafore sold for $7,500, and two 1999 Lincoln Town Cars driven by hit men went for $2,600 each. They had gunshot damage. Paulie Walnuts' 2003 Cadillac CTS sold for $18,000. That's the car he drove to tear up Christopher Moltisanti's front yard.