updated 3/25/2013 4:46:32 PM ET 2013-03-25T20:46:32

If you thought checking your smartphone while driving could only lead to trouble, think again. A newly developed smartphone app from Honda can actually help drivers avoid the hazards of the road — namely, traffic jams — while simultaneously improving fuel efficiency.

The Japanese car maker announced last week that its new “congestion minimization” app — tested by drivers for six months on a public access road between two cities in Jakarta, Indonesia — is effective at delaying the development of traffic jams by up to six minutes. It can also improve fuel efficiency by more than 20 percent.

The app’s acceleration-monitoring system is based on the principle that vehicles moving at different average speeds are often the cause of traffic congestion. By monitoring whether a car’s speed is aligned with the other vehicles around it, the app can clue a driver in as to when he or she needs to slow down or speed up.

And the app’s simple display lets drivers monitor their driving at a glance. If the car’s speed is aligned with the other  vehicles  around it, the app display stays green. If the driver needs to monitor speed to avoid getting too close to the car ahead of it, the app display turns blue.

Honda tested the smartphone app as part of two distinct systems. In the stand-alone system, one vehicle used a smartphone equipped with the app to determine synchronicity with the cars around it. In the interactive system, multiple cars were connected to a cloud server through the app, which provided synchronized assistance to each driver. [See also:  How Hackers Could Trigger Traffic Jams with Smartphones ]

Both systems were effective in delaying the development of congestion and in improving fuel efficiency.

While there are several traffic flow monitoring apps available for smartphones, Honda’s is among the first to help stop traffic jams before they start. If it catches on, the company said their app could improve the safety and efficiency of the  cars  that use it, as well as hundreds of other vehicles operating on the same roads.

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