This paper reports on real data testing of a real-time freeway traffic state estimator, with a particular focus on its adaptive capabilities. The pursued general approach to the real-time adaptive estimation of complete traffic state in freeway stretches or networks is based on stochastic macroscopic traffic flow modeling and extended Kalman filtering. One major innovative feature of the traffic state estimator is the online joint estimation of important model parameters (free speed, critical density, and capacity) and traffic flow variables (flows, mean speeds, and densities), which leads to three significant advantages of the estimator: (1) avoidance of prior model calibration; (2) automatic adaptation to changing external conditions (e.g. weather and lighting conditions, traffic composition, control measures); (3) enabling of incident alarms. These three advantages are demonstrated via suitable real data testing. The achieved testing results are satisfactory and promising for subsequent applications. (C) 2008 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.