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John O | August 2017

Arizona using thermal imaging cameras to combat wrong-way drivers


The Arizona Department of Transportation (ADOT) has developed a first-in-the-nation pilot program that will use thermal imaging cameras and fiber optic communications to combat wrong-way drivers in Interstate 17 in Phoenix, according to an announcement on the department’s website

 


ADOT is using thermal imaging cameras to start alert about wrong-way drivers.
(Wikimedia Commons)

 

The $3.7 million system has been approved by the State Board of Transportation and received the backing of Arizona Governor Doug Ducey, according to the report. The department is fast-tracking coverage of 15 miles between the I-10 and Loop 101 interchanges on I-17 with cameras, poles and fiber-optic cables to have the system installed.

 

Construction will begin in August and installation is expected to be completed by 2018.

 

The announcement explained, “The system will use thermal cameras to detect a wrong-way vehicle along an off-ramp, triggering an illuminated wrong-way sign with flashing lights aimed at getting the attention of the driver. The system will immediately alert the Arizona Department of Public Safety and ADOT while warning other freeway drivers in the area through overhead message boards. On the freeway, additional thermal cameras placed at one-mile intervals will signal when a wrong-way vehicle passes to help State Troopers plan their response.”

 

Rather than waiting for 911 calls from fellow motorists or reports of an accident caused by wrong-way drivers, ADOT believes this system will hasten response time and potentially prevent accidents.

 

According to a report from the Phoenix New Times, the system would detect the vehicle going the wrong way, which would set off flashing lights around the “Wrong Way” signs and lights at the bottom and top of the on-ramp.

 

In addition, a signal would be sent to ADOT’s Traffic Control Center to alert public safety officials and to send messages to metered lights that will stay red to allow the wrong-way driver to pass and electronic message boards on the highway that will notify oncoming traffic that a wrong-way driver is on the highway.

 

An article in Design World added, “Prior to choosing a thermal detection system, the Arizona Department of Transportation (ADOT) first investigated whether in-pavement loop detectors could be programmed to pick up wrong-way vehicles. However, this approach produced too many false positives. ADOT also tested different radar-based systems, both in Phoenix and in rural areas.”

 

It continued, “This testing showed that thermal cameras commonly used to detect right-way traffic at intersections were very reliable at detecting vehicles traveling in the wrong direction.”

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