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Center for Transportation Studies

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The Intelligent Transportation Systems Institute has released a new report, “Monitoring Weaving Sections”, detailing the development and use of a new portable traffic monitoring system based on automatic computer analysis of data gathered by video cameras. This system represents a major improvement in researchers’ ability to accurately monitor areas such as freeway entrance and exit ramps, where vehicles frequently change lanes, accelerate, and decelerate as they enter and exit the traffic flow.

The research team, led by Dr. Nikolaos Papanikolopoulos of the Department of Computer Science, developed this system in response to the needs of other ITS Institute researchers, who have successfully deployed it on Twin Cities-area freeways to gather data for ongoing traffic pattern research. Existing sensor systems, such as pavement-embedded loop detectors that record the presence of a vehicle in a lane, proved inadequate for gathering data on vehicle movements between lanes.

In the new system, a video camera mounted on a telescoping pole sends images of traffic in the monitoring area to a computer, which interprets “blobs” of similar pixels in the image as individual vehicles. The vehicle-objects are then tracked individually, and data such as speed, acceleration, and lateral movement are recorded for each one. Users can adjust the computer software to compensate for optical perspective and distance from the roadway, making it possible to deploy the monitoring system almost anywhere.

Although the monitoring system is already in use by researchers and Mn/DOT, the developers are working on enhancements that will make it more accurate and reliable. In particular, they want to improve the system’s ability to track large, multi-part vehicles (such as semi tractor-trailers) and to compensate for extreme glare and shadows on the roadway.

For a copy of the report call the Center for Transportation Studies at 612-626-1077 or go to the Research Report download page.