wrong way drivers (Arizona Department of Transportation Research Center)

2018 Government Innovation Awards

An IoT safety net for misguided drivers

When a car enters an interstate headed in the wrong direction, the mistake can be devastating. Earlier this year, three people were killed when a car made its way onto Interstate 10 traveling the wrong way near Phoenix.

Wrong-Way Driver Detection System

Arizona Department of Transportation

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The Arizona Department of Transportation has invested in a system it hopes will cut down on those kinds of accidents, which are usually the result of impaired driving. The wrong-way driver detection system consists of cameras that flag cars headed the wrong way and a network of warnings and notifications meant to alert that driver and keep others safe.

The setup consists of 90 thermal cameras, and the Arizona DOT has been piloting it since January on a 15-mile stretch of interstate highway. Brent Cain, a division director at Arizona DOT, said there are plans to expand to more roadways in the future.

The cameras can determine if a vehicle is entering an interstate ramp headed in the wrong direction. Once that determination is made a, notification is sent to the state’s Highway Patrol Division and DOT’s Traffic Operations Center. Back on the highway, large LED-lit signs reading “Wrong Way” begin flashing to let the driver know he or she should turn around. If the driver continues onto the freeway, the center will trigger a warning for the programmable overhead signs to warn drivers headed in the correct direction that there is a wrong-way driver and they should exit the highway.

The agency expects to use insights from the system to better understand engineering changes that could reduce wrong-way incidents. “Having this data, I think, will give us a wealth of information, and we’re really going to better understand” the problem, Cain said.

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