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Cameras Play Traffic Cop

Photonics Spectra
Oct 1997
Michael D. Wheeler

TWINSBURG, Ohio -- The next generation of traffic control systems, employing the latest in video imaging and detection, should be operational in a suburb of Akron by midsummer of next year.
Unlike traditional stoplights, this "intelligent transportation system" responds to the changing traffic conditions of an intersection. Sensing backed-up traffic or slower-moving vehicles, a green light stays green longer. Rush hour, once the dread of weary commuters, soon may become manageable as backed-up cars stream through longer green lights.
The system was developed by Twinsburg-based Path Master Inc. It employs a combination of high-tech components and ubiquitous technology. Four industrial black-and-white cameras monitor activity from each corner of an intersection. Images of traffic are conveyed to a high-power processing system.
The system, dubbed VideoTrak, employs different algorithms that determine the types of vehicles, their speeds and a host of other criteria. Pixel changes in the video provide the clues. VideoTrak, manufactured by Peek Traffic in Tallahasee, Fla., is sophisticated enough to discern between vehicle and nonvehicle images -- birds flying by or pedestrians -- while recognizing the different acceleration patterns of buses, cars and dump trucks.
"We have a very high-powered processing system," said Randall Van Scoy, president of Path Master. "It responds to any vehicle. We can change the green time for the number of vehicles [waiting at the intersection]."

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