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How a tech-based solution can address the limitations of standard data collection…

The monitoring of vehicle speeds, as well as volumes, is standard practice for data-collection companies. It is an integral part of most traffic-modelling software and needed for transport planning purposes for new altered junctions. Whilst there any currently many methodologies for capturing this data, not many are perfect and have a number of limitations.

In partnership with Vivacity Labs, Tracsis has developed an innovative video-analytical solution for capturing both volume and speed utilising AI technology. This method is suitable for post processing by running video footage through the system, and addresses some of the main limitations to standard data capture.

What are the current methods available?
The most common piece of equipment for the capture of vehicle flows and associated speed is the pneumatic tube counter. Tube counters provide a very cost effective and reliable way of collecting this data.

Radar classifiers provide a similar output to pneumatic tube, albeit in vehicle length bins rather than individual classifications, and of course speeds. Again, the usual limitations apply and set up proficiency is key to capturing good data using this methodology.

Inductive loops and AI sensors provide a permanent solution for longer term monitoring with “live data”, which can be viewed through a client portal such as an online dashboard.

Current challenges of temporary surveys
High Speed Roads: The installation of tube on higher speed roads is not possible in the vast majority of cases. The width of the road and potential number of lanes is the minor issue, with the major problem being the higher speeds impact on the tube and the risk of the tube breaking, and the safety risks this poses. Flailing tube is also usually responsible for damage to vehicles and carries a high risk and a cost through insurance.

Physical presence of equipment: In the instance of a site on a high-speed road, in most circumstances radar is utilised, where there is no physical presence of equipment in the carriageway, but rather attached to suitable street furniture. This removes the risk both for the physical installation itself but also due to being road-side.

Limited classifications for reporting: However, the switch to the use of radar also means reporting in length bins, rather than classifications, which is less than ideal for most models and for most onward reporting requirements.

The AI software detects, classifies and tracks road users seen in the video

AI speeds: how does it work?
By utilising the same AI technology seen in a permanently fixed AI sensor, Tracsis is able to offer a separate, proprietary solution where video footage of any particular site can be post-processed through the system and accurately capture volume and speed of all vehicle classes as well as pedestrians and cyclists.

The AI software detects, classifies and tracks road users seen in the video. Speed lines are superimposed across the road environment to define the area of speed measurement. The software uses the real-world distance between the two lines and the width of the road to calculate a perspective transformation to map an object’s detected locations into real-world coordinate frame. From this, the speed of each individual object can be obtained.

Why use AI?
Safety: This method is safer than installing tube and can also be used where tube installation is not possible. There is no requirement to enter the live carriageway so a camera can be installed from a road side position. Over bridges or similar can be used where the cost of traffic management outweighs the cost-benefit ratio of a project.

Insights: This method offers extended classifications over tube counters, for example cycles and pedestrians, and means that where a radar would otherwise be used, full classifications can be captured to align with the modelling software being used.

Nick Mather
Business development director
T: 020 7424 8080
E: nick.mather@tracsis.com

This article originally appeared in the May 2021 issue of CiTTi Magazine

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