As states, counties and municipalities look to install more cameras to monitor traffic and safety, the operators who observer the technology for incidents are being stretched thinner.
Operators have to flip through dozens of screens searching for incidents and the more cameras that are added to a system, the less time they will have to focus on each individual location. But what if the technology could alert them to a slowdown in traffic without the operator having to find an accident by chance while flipping through camera feeds?
The Intelligent Transportation System (ITS) Resource Center at the New Jersey Institute of Technology (NJIT) has been piloting software that would do just that, said Branislav Dimitrijevic, a principal transportation planner at the center.
NJIT’s ITS Resource Center collaborated with Dr. Peter Jin, an assistance professor in the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering and affiliate of the Center for Advanced Infrastructure and Transportation at Rutgers University, to develop an algorithm to detect incidents based on real-time traffic data.
The center developed a prototype in 2015 and deployed it on Interstate 280, a nearly 18-mile stretch of highway that connects Interstate 80 in Parsippany-Troy Hills, Morris County, to Newark, in Essex County and the New Jersey Turnpike access in Kearny, Hudson County. Interstate 280 also intersects with the Garden State Parkway and Route 21 in Essex County – a highly congested stretch of the highway that sees a high number of crashes.
This initial case study of the dynamic non-recurrent congestion detection project began with the center collecting information to build a daily speed profile – the average speed vehicles travel on I-280 at different times of day and in different weather conditions, Dimitrijevic said.
The data is collected using Bluetooth technology that communicates with Bluetooth enabled devices and vehicles to calculate travel time.
The algorithm considers the baseline data – the average travel speed for that time of day – and compares it to real-time traffic information. When traffic movements dip at least 20 percent below the baseline, the software will send an alert to an operator monitoring traffic cameras.
The system was tested along I-280 so that operators could provide feedback on the functionality of the technology.
Once an alert is received, the operator can then pull up the feed from the camera at that location to see what is causing the delay, or if there is not a camera, can notify law enforcement that there might be an incident.
The NJIT ITS Resource Center is now working with traffic operations north at the New Jersey Department of Transportation (NJDOT), to pilot the program at the Statewide Traffic Management Center. The pilot will focus on several freeways in northern New Jersey.
The ITS Resource Center at NJIT was established in 2008 to serve as the primary research, education and technology resources for the NJDOT. Staff and students at the center work to ensure the state is making the right decisions as it invests in intelligent transportation systems. ITS technology extends beyond alerting operators to traffic incidents. It’s what enables traffic lights to communicate with railroad crossings so that, for example, traffic travelling parallel to the tracks gets a green light when crossing gates are down. And the same technology allows traffic lights to be programed so that they can change their timing automatically based on current traffic levels.
Melissa Hayes is Managing Editor of InTransition.