BEYOND SPEED ENFORCEMENT
Capabilities of the latest portable speed detecting systems are opening up new traffic control and data gathering possibilities.
Long gone the early days of automobiling when vehicle speed was regulated by a person walking in front with a warning flag or checked by a policeman hiding in the bushes with a stopwatch. It is no news that today’s ever more complicated cameras, sensors and integrated systems are equipped to manage vehicle traffic by the millions every day and have become essential parts of organizing and regulating road transportation networks of all sizes. What is surprising that as the number of vehicles on the roads is growing year after year and it forces traffic engineers to design increasingly complicated and often ingenious ways to organize the flow on existing landscapes, the components of traffic monitoring systems are lately becoming simpler and more multifaceted in their function and purpose.
The challenges, of course, are many. As backed up by countless statistics, dynamic traffic regulation and vehicle speed monitoring have undoubtedly contributed to reducing road-related fatalities and accidents, as well as helped mitigating congestions the last couple of decades. Nevertheless, in many regions certain community views or plain budgetary vows inhibit the placement of permanent traffic monitoring systems, and in other places it is simply not practical or feasible to invest in stationary installations.
Still, the authorities in charge with road traffic management do not have to simply relinquish the boosting of efficiency and safety of public roads, since in many instances portable system components can easily take the place of permanent installations without sacrificing effectiveness and available options of data gathering. These movable systems, such as ARH’s CAM-S1, can perform progressive road surveillance individually and in communication with other units or with a central ITS, depending on the type of requirements and subsequent configuration.
Spot speed measurement is just one of the many roles this type of unit is able to perform, but while communicating with additional camera system(s), together they are able to evaluate the passing vehicles’ average speed. Many experiments have already shown that the second option—speed measurement between points A and B—is in fact the ideal way to reduce speeding because it counteracts the sudden slowing down then speeding up of vehicles passing a detection point; and warnings originating from GPS devices, mobile apps or from other drivers. The effectiveness of point-to-point speed measurement is the reason that it has recently been adopted on the nationwide scale in the Netherlands.
In addition, several other types of enforcement and analytical functions must be within the basic capabilities of portable systems, like CAM-S1. For example they may be set up for lane enforcement to observe not just proper use (in case of dedicated lanes, such as parking or bus lanes) but also whether solid lines are crossed, road markings and street signs are followed or signal lights are respected. In the latter case after determining the ideal spot for the system, its laser-guided distance measuring can simply gauge whether a vehicle came to a complete stop before crossing the intersection next to a stop sign or halted at a red light, as vehicle motion and traffic light sequences are also readily recognized.
In the case of CAM-S1, it not just reads all license plates types in the world, but it is also able to detect with high probability whether a driver is wearing a seatbelt or not. If special DOT or ADR markings are visible, the unit’s built-in OCR software and processing unit also stores and forwards all relevant information to a preset central location if necessary for statistical and data gathering purposes. The system’s computation and communication capabilities also come handy during traffic analysis. The unit’s preset functions can count vehicle traffic and actually detects the level of congestion on the section of a public road where it is set up. This ability is ideal when coupled with electronically variable speed limit signs to counter road congestion or air pollution.
Naturally, such portable systems must have similar capabilities as their stationary counterparts while remaining truly movable. With its two cameras, ARH’s unit provide overview and high resolution images or videos, and combined with IR illumination, it is able to operate at a distance of 600m during daylight and 100m at night. Precise location is determined by a built-in GPS, and communication is done via Wi-fi, GSM or Ethernet connection. All data processing, storing and forwarding are executed within the unit as well, and the controlling functions are carried out through a graphical user interface on the device’s touchscreen. The interchangeable battery pack of CAM-S1 also allows eight hours of field operation with a single charge.
As roadside data gathering and dynamic traffic control will remain the best way to assure the safety and efficiency of public road networks in the foreseeable future, multifaceted monitoring components with increased capabilities will remain essential parts of a truly Intelligent Transportation System. Highly capable portable monitoring devices can play an important role by filling in blank spots in such a network where investing in permanent installations is otherwise not feasible.