Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Software Uses In-Road Detectors to Alleviate Traffic Jams

26.02.2003


Benjamin Coifman


The same in-road detectors that control traffic lights and monitor traffic could soon respond quicker to traffic jams, thanks to software developed by an Ohio State University engineer.

In tests, the software helped California road crews discover traffic jams three times faster than before, allowing them to clear accidents and restore traffic flow before many other drivers would be delayed.

This technology could also provide drivers with the information they need to plan efficient routes, and even improve future road design, said Benjamin Coifman, assistant professor of electrical engineering and civil and environmental engineering at Ohio State.



Many drivers have probably noticed the buried detectors, called loop detectors, at intersections. A square outline cut into the pavement marks the spot where road crews have inserted a loop of wire. When a car stops over the loop, a signal travels to a control box at the side of the road, which tells the traffic light to change.

Though the loop detectors are barely more than metal detectors, they collect enough information to indicate the general speed of traffic, Coifman said. So he set out to use the detectors in a new way.

In the March issue of the journal Transportation Research, he describes how he was able pinpoint traffic congestion and accurately measure vehicles’ travel time using standard loop detectors.

With the software, a small amount of roadside hardware, and a single PC, a city could significantly improve traffic monitoring without compromising drivers’ experience of the road, Coifman concluded. That’s important, he said, because good traffic management can’t be obtrusive.

“If transportation engineers are doing their job well, you don’t even realize they’ve improved travel conditions,” he said.

Coifman began this work while he was a postdoctoral researcher at the University of California, Berkeley. In 1999, he installed computer network hardware in control boxes along a three-mile-long stretch of road near the Berkeley campus, and took traffic data from loop detectors every third of a mile.

He then wrote computer algorithms that can capture a vehicle’s length as it passes over a detector. Once a vehicle of similar length passed over the next loop, the computer could match the two signals and calculate the vehicle’s travel time. Based on each car’s travel time, the software was able to determine within three and a half minutes after traffic began to slow that a traffic jam had formed.

Because drivers’ behavior isn’t predictable, the new algorithms had to take many human factors into account. Among other factors, Coifman had to consider people changing lanes, entering and exiting from ramps, and “rubbernecking” -- the delay to drive time caused by people who slow down to look at accidents or other events.

“Traffic is a fluid like no other fluid,” Coifman said. “You can think of cars as particles that act independently, and waves propagate through this fluid, moving with the flow or against it.”

After an accident, it may take a long time for the telltale wave of slow moving traffic to propagate through the detectors. With the new algorithm, Coifman can detect delays without waiting for slowed traffic to back up all the way to a detector. This improved response time is important, because the personal and financial costs grow exponentially the longer people are stuck in traffic.

The detectors can’t obtain any specific information about the make or model of car, he said, and a margin of error prevents the software from identifying more than a handful of cars in any one area at one time.

But that’s enough information to gauge traffic flow, and the benefits to motorists can be enormous.

The average American city dweller wastes 62 hours per year stuck in traffic, according to the 2002 Urban Mobility Study by the Texas Transportation Institute. The institute measured traffic delays in 75 major cities, including Columbus, Ohio, where the average delay is 36 hours per year; Cleveland, where the average is 21 hours per year; and Cincinnati, where it’s 43 hours per year.

According to the same study, traffic jams cost the average city $900 million in lost work time and wasted fuel every year.

The Ohio Department of Transportation (ODOT) has already begun using loop detectors to help motorists spend less time in traffic. When drivers head south into Columbus on Interstate 71 during business hours, an electronic sign just north of the city displays the average drive time into downtown.

As such information becomes more common, drivers can plan their routes more efficiently, Coifman said. He’s working with ODOT to further improve travel time estimates.

The software would work with other vehicle detection systems too, such as video cameras. But installing these new systems can cost as much as $100,000 per location, and retrofitting existing equipment to use Coifman’s software would only cost a fraction as much.

This work was supported by the Partners for Advanced Highways and Transit Program of the University of California, the California Department of Transportation, and the United States Department of Transportation, Federal Highway Administration.



Contact: Benjamin Coifman, (614) 292-4282; Coifman.1@osu.edu
Written by Pam Frost Gorder, (614) 292-9475; Gorder.1@osu.edu

Pam Frost Gorder | Ohio State University
Further information:
http://www.osu.edu/researchnews/archive/traffic.htm
http://www.ceegs.ohio-state.edu/faculty/coifman/index.shtml

More articles from Transportation and Logistics:

nachricht Researchers 'count cars' -- literally -- to find a better way to control heavy traffic
10.08.2017 | Florida Atlantic University

nachricht From parking garage to smart multi-purpose garage
19.07.2017 | Fraunhofer-Institut für Arbeitswirtschaft und Organisation IAO

All articles from Transportation and Logistics >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Fizzy soda water could be key to clean manufacture of flat wonder material: Graphene

Whether you call it effervescent, fizzy, or sparkling, carbonated water is making a comeback as a beverage. Aside from quenching thirst, researchers at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign have discovered a new use for these "bubbly" concoctions that will have major impact on the manufacturer of the world's thinnest, flattest, and one most useful materials -- graphene.

As graphene's popularity grows as an advanced "wonder" material, the speed and quality at which it can be manufactured will be paramount. With that in mind,...

Im Focus: Exotic quantum states made from light: Physicists create optical “wells” for a super-photon

Physicists at the University of Bonn have managed to create optical hollows and more complex patterns into which the light of a Bose-Einstein condensate flows. The creation of such highly low-loss structures for light is a prerequisite for complex light circuits, such as for quantum information processing for a new generation of computers. The researchers are now presenting their results in the journal Nature Photonics.

Light particles (photons) occur as tiny, indivisible portions. Many thousands of these light portions can be merged to form a single super-photon if they are...

Im Focus: Circular RNA linked to brain function

For the first time, scientists have shown that circular RNA is linked to brain function. When a RNA molecule called Cdr1as was deleted from the genome of mice, the animals had problems filtering out unnecessary information – like patients suffering from neuropsychiatric disorders.

While hundreds of circular RNAs (circRNAs) are abundant in mammalian brains, one big question has remained unanswered: What are they actually good for? In the...

Im Focus: RAVAN CubeSat measures Earth's outgoing energy

An experimental small satellite has successfully collected and delivered data on a key measurement for predicting changes in Earth's climate.

The Radiometer Assessment using Vertically Aligned Nanotubes (RAVAN) CubeSat was launched into low-Earth orbit on Nov. 11, 2016, in order to test new...

Im Focus: Scientists shine new light on the “other high temperature superconductor”

A study led by scientists of the Max Planck Institute for the Structure and Dynamics of Matter (MPSD) at the Center for Free-Electron Laser Science in Hamburg presents evidence of the coexistence of superconductivity and “charge-density-waves” in compounds of the poorly-studied family of bismuthates. This observation opens up new perspectives for a deeper understanding of the phenomenon of high-temperature superconductivity, a topic which is at the core of condensed matter research since more than 30 years. The paper by Nicoletti et al has been published in the PNAS.

Since the beginning of the 20th century, superconductivity had been observed in some metals at temperatures only a few degrees above the absolute zero (minus...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

Call for Papers – ICNFT 2018, 5th International Conference on New Forming Technology

16.08.2017 | Event News

Sustainability is the business model of tomorrow

04.08.2017 | Event News

Clash of Realities 2017: Registration now open. International Conference at TH Köln

26.07.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

On the way to developing a new active ingredient against chronic infections

21.08.2017 | Life Sciences

Smart Computers

21.08.2017 | Information Technology

A Map of the Cell’s Power Station

18.08.2017 | Life Sciences

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>