Sensors Track Traffic Flow On 'Smart' California Corridor

Underground sensors will pick up vibrations from cars to help assess traffic demand and to determine the correct length of time a light should remain green.
The video cameras have 360-degree pan-tilt-and-zoom capabilities and are positioned about 60 feet above the street on metal poles. Pre-set positions based on the time of day program the cameras to move automatically throughout the day to view specific pieces of the intersection and transmit pictures at 38,400 megabits per second through fiber cables. The data and video is fed into Naztec Inc.'s Streetwise software that runs on a centralized computer system at Dublin's city hall.

The sensors and traffic signals are an additional cost. Kuzbari estimates the price for each wire loop of sensors is between $350 and $500. In a busy four-lane intersection, for example, there are up to 40 sensors embedded in the ground, and some have more than one loop. "Potentially you could end up with as many as 100 loops of sensors at a cost of $350 each," Kuzbari said. "The streets surrounding Ikea's new store are under construction to install fiber cables and traffic signals, but the sensors and camera won't be installed until later this year, and we'll integrate the system into our computer software around mid 2006."

Caltrans established the Smart Corridor Initiative to battle a growing traffic problem and is funding the upgrade to a more advanced traffic management system throughout the Bay area. The technology already is installed at various intersections in three northern California cities – Dublin, Pleasanton and Livermore – within Alameda County. The project was made possibly through a federal grant for $3.5 million about two years ago.

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