Smart road system shows Virginia drivers the way

Smart road system shows Virginia drivers the way

Traffic data is provided via the Net, phones, cable television, pagers and personal digital assistants

By Donna Young

GCN Staff

Drivers in southeastern Virginia are using a new information system to help them plan their routes. The Advanced Traveler Information System links motorists to travel reports via the Internet, kiosks, highway advisory telephones, cable television, commercial vehicle networks, pagers and personal digital assistants.

The commonwealth's Transportation Department and the Federal Highway Administration signed a five-year contract with Iteris Inc., a subsidiary of Odetics Inc. of Anaheim, Calif., to provide road travelers with reports about congested areas, best route information, weather advisories and safety alerts.


Virginia Beach Smart Traffic Center gathers traffic information for the state's motorists.



ATIS serves motorists in the Hampton Roads area: the cities of Chesapeake, Hampton, Newport News, Norfolk, Suffolk, Virginia Beach and Williamsburg.

Video views

The system disseminates information gathered by VDOT's Smart Traffic Center in Virginia Beach, one of the state's four traffic control centers.

James Mock, a department traffic engineer, said VDOT gathers data using intelligent transportation systems consisting of closed-circuit TV cameras and induction loop detectors'electronic sensors embedded in pavement that monitor traffic speed.

The state has set up 38 video cameras to view 19 miles of highway in the Hampton Roads region. When the project is done, 288 cameras will monitor conditions on 119 miles of roads.

VDOT sends the road information to Iteris, which passes it on to the public.

'Studies show that the government does an excellent job in researching and gathering information, but the private sector is better at disseminating the information to the public,' Mock said.

VDOT spokeswoman Erin Gregg said motorists can get free information over the Internet, but some of the specifics will be available only to paid subscribers.

'Travelers can pay to have traffic alerts sent to them through e-mail, beepers' or PDAs, she said.

Dwayne Cook, VDOT senior transportation engineer, said the state uses Linux 6.x on a customized 166-MHz Pentium PC with 82M of RAM to store its frame-captured images and ftp'd data.

Cook said that for the loop detector server, the state uses a custom-built 486 DX/2 66-MHz PC with 32M of RAM and Microsoft Windows NT 3.51.

Real-time images

The state provides video feeds to area television stations for their Web sites and for background of televised traffic reports.

Internet users can view frame-grabbed video images on a two-minute delay gathered by the state on www.wavy.com, the local NBC affiliate's site; www.wvec.com/news/traffic/map.htm, the local ABC affiliate's site; hamptonroads.com/traffic, The Virginian-Pilot's site; and gohamptonroads.com, a community Web site produced by Cox Communications Inc. of Atlanta, one of Iteris' partners in the project.

Jeff Brummond, technical adviser for Iteris, said once the system is in place, the video delay will be cut to 30 seconds or less on gohamptonroads.com.

Brummond said Iteris is using Tango, a video transmission system from its sister company Gyyr Corp. of Anaheim, Calif., to speed up the timing of the frame-grabbed video images.

The project will also use RadioCamera from U.S. Wireless Corp. of San Ramon, Calif., to monitor the speed of traffic by tracking the passing signals of cellular telephones used by drivers.

The RadioCamera system determines a wireless subscriber's location by measuring the distinct radio frequency patterns and multipath characteristics of radio signals arriving at a cell site from a single caller.

Brummond said information from the RadioCamera system will help Iteris depict current traffic conditions for color-coded maps motorists can view on the Internet or at one of the four kiosks the state plans to install in and around Hampton Roads.

Brummond said the geographic information system for the project consists of ArcInfo 8.x software from Environmental Systems Research Institute of Redlands, Calif. Iteris has not yet chosen hardware for the GIS server, but Brummond said the software will run under Windows NT.

Metro Networks, a subsidiary of Westwood One of New York, will provide traffic information content for later stages of the project.

Cliff Heise, Iteris' Eastern region vice president for transportation systems, said the project requires data from many sources fuse together to make one coherent piece of information.

The state plans to complete the project by fall 2004.

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