Past, Present and Future: A Look at Transportation Data

Posted on Wednesday, August 29th, 2018 by
In Transportation Engineering, tagged in
affinis transportation data trends

Transportation data plays an important role in creating high-performing roadways and planning for maintenance. Over the years, we’ve seen an increase in technology used. However, the introduction of autonomous cars could transform the kind of information we examine throughout engineering projects.

When it comes to collecting transportation data, loop wires were the first method introduced. However, in the last decade, cameras have become more prevalent. In fact, they are used in many intersections in Johnson County, Kansas. Typically, we are using one to two per intersection on all of our projects.

Although they have been around longer, loop wires can’t collect as much data as cameras. When a car or truck drives over one, it creates a magnetic field, and the wire, essentially, “counts it.” Semi-trucks with two trailers could be counted twice. They can also be used at intersections to indicate to the signal that a vehicle is present, whether that is to indicate a turning or through movement.

Transportation data is gathered differently based on the kind of roadway. Loop wires are placed in the pavement on highways to collect information, while intersections typically use a combination of loops, radars, and cameras for advanced and presence detection.

Hourly, daily, and yearly traffic volumes are used every year to help determine capacity needs for roadways and intersections. In some cases, the video technology can pull classification data on vehicles and speeds traveled which can assist a traffic study. Knowing how many heavy trucks are moving through a roadway sheds light on wear and tear and ensures the appropriate pavement design is used.

While we don’t expect to see many changes in how data is collected (video), the kind of information gathered will continue to evolve. Essentially, the cars will be able to communicate and transmit data to tech on the roadways, from their own sensors and cameras. For example, we will be able to see when a person is leaving their lane or if he or she is speeding. Interior cameras could watch faces to see if someone has fallen asleep. The amount of data that could be obtained is endless and will most likely lead to innovations in smart roadway design.

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