Designing an Intelligent Transportation System to Improve Detection of Wrong Way Drivers
May 29th, 2018
In July 2016, I had the opportunity to be a part of a life-saving initiative to deploy a wrong-way driving detection system in collaboration with the Central Florida Expressway Authority (CFX), the University of Central Florida (UCF) and Traffic & Parking Control Co.,Inc. (TAPCO) as part of the Wrong-Way Detection Prevention Pilot Program – Phase 1 for CFX.
While wrong-way driving collisions account for only 3 percent of crashes, the fatalities for these crashes can be up to 27 times higher than any other type of vehicular crash, according to a 2012 National Transportation Safety Board report. DRMP provided Intelligent Transportation Systems (ITS) design to create a system to detect wrong-way vehicles in real-time.
The system works like this: Whenever a wrong-way event is detected, our system emits a rapid flashing light and a prominent one-way sign that warns drivers they are headed in the wrong direction. The system communicates with the Florida Department of Transportation’s District Five Regional Transportation Center (RTMC) and signals a warning within a six-second timeframe; this, in turn, prompts officials to notify and immediately send emergency responders to the scene of a wrong-way event. Then, messages are immediately posted on nearby dynamic signs alerting oncoming traffic to proceed with caution when a wrong-way incident is confirmed. We wanted to establish multiple safeguards to help ensure safety and precaution against wrong-way incidents.
Normally, a project like this would take nine months to complete, but my team and I were tasked with the challenge of the detection system layout, including replicating it for 29 deployments, on an accelerated two-month project schedule. The systems are strategically deployed about the CFX roadway network at off-ramps from state roads 408, 414, 417, 429 and 528 around the Orlando, Fla. area.
Our main focus to achieve success was to layout a detection system that was aesthetically pleasing and with technology that worked well together to ensure longevity and maintainability to meet CFX’s satisfaction while remaining within budget. It was up to us to make sure the design layout worked at every installation site; if it didn’t, we needed to develop a solution immediately. Our team was a part of a corroborative effort of running multiple tests on different technologies. For the first 19 systems, we used microwave technology for detection. However, the research and testing came into play here, helping us realize that in some locations, microwave detection was not feasible and did not meet the accuracy required. So, for the remaining 10 systems, a decision was made to equip them with laser based technology along with closed-circuit television, fiber optic and cellular-based technologies.
There were a couple of phases when it came time for testing our actual deployment systems. In coordination with CFX, UCF and TAPCO we first tested the system in the CFX parking lot using actual vendor equipment and multiple vehicle types, including a motorcycle, a pickup truck and a small freight truck. The next step was taking it to the road where it would ultimately be deployed. a State 408 off-ramp during the night time off-peak hours. We then went live with the system and left the unit operational for one month before DRMP and UCF analyzed the data and made recommendations.
When we began back in July, the goal was to deploy the first 19 systems after the initial two months and the remaining systems by the end of 2017. I am pleased to say that all 29 systems have been constructed and are working perfectly. Since the first installation, there has been an 83.6 percent documented turnaround of wrong-way drivers (148 out of 177). The system is also award-winning, receiving the 2016 “Toll Excellence Award for Toll Operations, Engineering & Maintenance” from the International Bridge, Tunnel and Turnpike Association (IBTTA) and the 2017 “Honor Award” in Engineering Excellence from Florida Institute of Consulting Engineers.
To me, this wasn’t just an award-winning project. This was a chance for me and my team to make an impact in the community and do our part to prevent further tragedies.
Nick DeVito, PE is a Project Manager and Engineer of Record for Intelligent Transportation Systems.