Forgot your password?
typodupeerror
Software Science

Software Speeds Response To Road Accidents 100

Posted by kdawson
from the fluid-like-no-other dept.
coondoggie alerts us to research out of Ohio State University that could help authorities respond to car accidents more quickly and ease traffic back-ups at lower cost, particularly in rural areas. The software improves the efficiency of communications from in-road vehicle detection loops to transportation engineers monitoring conditions in order to improve traffic flow. Faster response to accidents and traffic jams could have huge payoffs: a 2002 study estimated that traffic jams cost the average city almost a billion dollars a year.
This discussion has been archived. No new comments can be posted.

Software Speeds Response To Road Accidents

Comments Filter:
  • Now.. (Score:5, Insightful)

    by ThisIsWhyImHot (1121637) on Tuesday July 03, 2007 @03:41PM (#19734683)
    If only there was some computer software that would stop people from slowing down and gawking at small fender bender, we'd have no more traffic jams.
    • I work for "the other ODOT"- Oregon. I can think of a way this software can be used to do exactly that: Variable Sign Minimum Speed Limits. Based on the real speed of the traffic (as detected by this software), subtract 20 mph- and light up the variable minimum speed limit signs with that speed limit. This would then allow the police to actually enforce a minimum speed limit; you could even have radar detectors in the signs that take a digital picture and transmit to cops waiting down the road for the "
      • by njchick (611256)
        Nice. At any speed, you are 20 mph too fast, unless everyone is busy passing you. If the traffic is moving slower than 20 mph, the speed limit is negative. In this case, you can only avoid the ticket by driving backwards.
        • Re:Now.. (Score:4, Insightful)

          by moderatorrater (1095745) on Tuesday July 03, 2007 @04:12PM (#19735097)
          Unless, of course, you understand the meaning of the word "minimum."
          • by ryanov (193048)
            You do realize that her handle is "njchick" right? Speed limits are not our strong suit. ;)
        • MINIMUM, not MAXIMUM. As in, if you're moving FASTER than the MINIMUM speed limit, you also avoid the ticket. It's only if you are going slower that you get a ticket.
          • by njchick (611256)
            Sorry, "speed limit" implied "maximum" for me too strongly to notice "minimum". By the way, how do you call violation of the minimum speed limit? Crawling? Creeping? Antispeeding? And how would you accelerate heavy trucks going uphill? Weird, weird Oregonians.
            • by AvitarX (172628)
              Many highways have speed minimums already (usually 40 MPH conditions permitting). I believe it is obstruction of traffic to go slower.

              I would personally say that slowing down for an accident on the shoulder or someone changing a tire is a saftey issue though, and not obstructing traffic.
            • I like Creeping- making somebody violating the law a "Creeper". Better than the "slower" in my original. As for trucks going uphill- well, that's why to me this has to be a VARIABLE speed limit sign. If all of the traffic in the truck lane (and we have truck lanes in Oregon- they're limited to the right hand lane except when passing) is going 35, then obviously the minimum speed limit should adjust itself to 15.
      • by Phroggy (441)
        First of all, as an Oregon resident, I think you guys do good work, mostly; thanks.

        Another idea I've heard of for solving the traffic jam problem is, rather than minimum speed limits, just have a variable maximum speed limit. Basically, replace all the signs that say "55" with electronic signs that would say "55" most of the time, but if there's an accident, you lower the limit a few miles before the accident, say to 50 then 45 then 40. So by the time you get there, everybody is already going slower anywa
        • First of all, as an Oregon resident, I think you guys do good work, mostly; thanks.

          I don't deserve the credit for most of that- I'm a software engineer working in central services, mainly on the business end of things. Closest I got was writing the software for Office of Civil Rights to check up on the contractors working on OTIA III to make sure local companies were getting the bridge building business and paying the right rates to their employees.

          Another idea I've heard of for solving the traffic jam
          • About the first week I was in Portland, I saw a city truck that said "The city that works"...and I thought it was a catchy tagline. Slowly but surely, the city and the surrounding areas proved themselves to do just that. Work.

            I'll second the kudos offered above.
            • I know a couple of land use planners who might disagree with that- especially if there is an accident on Boone Bridge....but then again I work in Region One Headquarters, where the aging nature of Portland Metro's "Champagne glass" freeway system and lack of building I-219 properly when we had the chance 30 years ago is becoming quite apparent. One accident on Boone Bridge can tie up traffic on I-5, I-205, I-217, and I-84 VERY quickly- and it happens once or twice a month.

              A similar problem exists with the
              • Points taken. I was more referring to the city/area as a whole, not just traffic. Anyplace where bridges are present has the potential for lots of problems, methinks.
            • by HungWeiLo (250320)
              10-15 years ago, it worked even better. There was a huge noticeable difference as you drive from Portland to Washington state. The roads in Washington state were decrepit and bumpy, whereas Oregon roads were paved more often. Of course, as the population surged in Portland, it's getting crowded and congested just like everywhere else. And when they started outsourcing all the crew work to contractors, the quality went down and the cost went up 3x.
          • by Phroggy (441)

            I don't believe there would be significantly more accidents, but for most of I-205 it'd be against our current policy of slowing down traffic in urban areas. I believe that there is a plan in the works for the southern end, but they're waiting to finish the third lane between I-5 and Oregon City first (that's the construction mess you see at the Tualatin interchange currently, increasing traffic flows for the I-5/205 interchange and earthquake upgrades for the overpasses in that area).

            The south end used to be 65, then they reduced it to 55 before the construction began. I'm totally OK with that, and would not want it increased back to 65 before the construction is finished. Is that policy you mentioned just an ODOT policy, or state law? Whose decision is it? It looks like Washington does the same kind of speed reduction near Vancouver, but their speeds are 60/70 instead of 55/65; would increasing Oregon's speed to match that be a bad idea?

            • I believe that slowing down traffic in urban areas is State Law, came in with the 65MPH speed limit, but ODOT does have some leeway with regards to that (for instance Salem North Metro is 60). As for increasing to 60/70, that would take an act of the legislature for sure- you'd have to convince the legislators that it's a good idea (rather than just the engineers) and I'm sure some parts of the freeway would have to stay 55 (Terwilinger Curves is only rated for 50 on ice, for example). When construction i
        • Your second comment shows the problem with changing the maximum speed limit to slow traffic in changing conditions: nobody follows it anyway.

          To be effective, you would want to lower the limit some distance *before* the bottleneck to lessen the rate that new cars came in to the affected area. This means that you would be changing limits on areas that don't appear to most drivers to have a traffic problem. In my experience, most people don't slow down until they absolutely have to - even when they can see sto

          • Agreed. I have seen signs that say "Left lane closed due to traffic accident 2 miles." The idea being that if you everyone gets out of the left lane nice and early, there won't be a slowdown like when they all have merge at once. Unfortunately, no one pays attention to the sign and keeps on speeding ahead in the left lane. When they get to where the lane ends, there's a huge jam as everyone has to merge over at the last minute.

            You can put out signs saying whatever you want. It doesn't mean people wi
            • by stormpunk (515019)
              I think they should put up those "traffic accident in 2 miles, merge left/right" signs and then about 1 mile later, put some temporary highway dividers up that splits the lane that you closed off. Make the dividers close enough together so that anybody that enters the area will not be able to merge and thus traps themselves in the new dead-end lane until the accident/construction is cleared. Also, make the dividers out of something more than regular construction cones or they'll just get run over. Or maybe
          • by Phroggy (441)
            Fair point - I withdraw the suggestion. Although, I do wonder how well it works in places that do it.
      • by Twixter (662877)
        You work for ODOT? (the other??) I live and work in Oregon and have some experience, believe it or not, programming for traffic counters. It isn't a difficult task to figure these sorts of things out. The difficult task is to get all the traffic counters together talking on a network as most states don't have an ip network running next to all their roads that they can just plug the counters into.

        That would be the high infrastructure cost. However the better counter companies offer wireless connections, et

        • You work for ODOT? (the other??) I live and work in Oregon and have some experience, believe it or not, programming for traffic counters. It isn't a difficult task to figure these sorts of things out. The difficult task is to get all the traffic counters together talking on a network as most states don't have an ip network running next to all their roads that they can just plug the counters into.
          That would be the high infrastructure cost. However the better counter companies offer wireless connections, ethe
      • by rthille (8526)
        Hey, you weren't the guy who blew up that whale on the beach were you?
        • Yes- a long, long time ago (it's amazing- that video was shot in 1970, the same year I was born, and wasn't posted to the internet until 1992- and the media guys still get questions about it every so often).

          I noticed that a recent humpback that washed up on shore two months ago got a bulldozer instead of dynamite...
    • by packeteer (566398)
      We would have no more traffic jams if more people rode bicycles. Bicycles are nearly immune to traffic jams. On an individual basis everyone should consider if it is worth it for them to skip over half the traveling time involved with driving.
      • by cayenne8 (626475)
        "We would have no more traffic jams if more people rode bicycles. Bicycles are nearly immune to traffic jams. On an individual basis everyone should consider if it is worth it for them to skip over half the traveling time involved with driving."

        Yeah...that's gonna work out really well for the majority of us who have 'real jobs' out there.

        Let's see, I'm in southern Louisiana. When it isn't raining (wait, that happens pretty every afternoon), the summer temperatures are easily in the 90's with humidity in

        • by packeteer (566398)
          Now, let's put that together with I'd guess an avg. 15-30 min. drive to work...those times are by car.
          One of my main points about riding a bike is that is is often faster than a car because you are not stuck in traffic. For some people who commute long distance without traffic a bicycle might not work.

          Yeah, you're gonna really look professional after you get to work, sweat soaked or wet from rain.
          Most people who commute on a bicycle change when they get to work.

          Not to mention that you'll likely have to get
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by bendodge (998616)
      In California police have been experimenting with setting up black tarps around accidents, and it seems to work very well.
      • Re:Now.. (Score:5, Interesting)

        by TubeSteak (669689) on Tuesday July 03, 2007 @04:49PM (#19735573) Journal
        Not just California

        Is it true that the state of Massachusetts is using large tarps to cover accidents so there would less rubbernecking", hence less accidents? [issuesource.org]
        According to an AP story from February 23, The Massachusetts Highway Department is indeed using "large portable screens" to obstruct drivers' views of accident sites and decrease rubbernecking. The state has nearly 30 of these tarps, seven feet tall and up to 30 feet wide. The screens are assembled in five to 10 minutes, and, according to the Highway Department, have been used in about 15 accidents since their implementation in December of last year. The total cost for the current amount of screening equipment is just under $38,000. "Most of our feedback has shown they've been pretty effective," James Carlyle, a spokesperson for the Highway Department, told The Stamford Advocate. "It's no silver bullet for congestion, but it's been helping."
        Last Updated: 25 Apr 2005

        February 23, 2005 Here's an article from the Boston Globe [boston.com]
        It says they were assembled in house & (then Governer) Mitt Romney brought the idea to their attention. Each set of screens costs $1,300 bucks, which, considering their benefits, seems cheap enough to me.
        • by Isaac-1 (233099)
          Such a wonderful idea until they are mandated to always be used, then blow into passing traffic during a wind storm.
  • by Scrameustache (459504) on Tuesday July 03, 2007 @03:43PM (#19734723) Homepage Journal

    ease traffic back-ups at lower cost, particularly in rural areas.
    For my next trick, I will quickly and efficiently shave all the hairs off a dolphin!
    • ease traffic back-ups at lower cost, particularly in rural areas.

      For my next trick, I will quickly and efficiently shave all the hairs off a dolphin!

      I had the same thought (though not phrased as amusingly). Then I bravely clicked the link and found that nowhere in the story nor on Coifmans website does it EVER say the word "rural". In fact it talks about implementations in Ohio CITIES and near UC Berkeley.

      Excellent editing job, guys.

    • by cayenne8 (626475)
      I was thinking of this article with reference to the article posted the other day about building a transmitter to fool the shopping carts into thinking they were past the 'zone' and to automatically lock the boots down on the wheels.

      Would there be a way to electronically 'spoof' these buried loops in the streets to mess with the speed stats....or traffic signals? Some kind of black box you could attach to the underside of your car to mess with these things?

    • by CompMD (522020)
      In rural areas, we don't have major multilane highways. We have two lane roads with 55 to 70mph speed limits. One accident can cause major havoc, even in the middle of nowhere. To get to one of the next cities north of us, we have to cross a river. One of the bridges was closed for repairs. A farm semi took a turn too fast, tipped, and blocked the other bridge. The nearest river crossing for us was suddenly 27 miles away.

      The intersection of US 56 and US 59 in Kansas was infamous for nasty accidents th
    • by 3p1ph4ny (835701)
      BTW, dolphins are mammals, and as such have hairs all over their bodies. So, unless you really can quickly shave an entire dolphin, you'd be better of pulling your trick on a non-mammal (blue whale, maybe?).
      • No way. You know how big blue whales are? I don't think it's possible to quickly and/or effeciently shave all the hair off of one of those.
  • Traffic as well (Score:2, Insightful)

    by bunburyist (664958)
    The article talks about software/hardware combos being used to alleviate road traffic jams. I think this is a very interesting advancement in the use of our road infrastructure. Currently, where I live (Ottawa) there is a huge problem associated with road usage and a non-scalable transit system. Here there is exclusively busses used as public transit. When the busses are using common traffic roads, there is often a pileup of busses arriving at once or no busses at all when they're stuck in traffic. If
    • Chirstchurch NZ has real time monitoring & update of bus traffic. At each bus stop there is a terminal telling you when the next bus will arrive and they are able to control buses far better to get improved passenger flow. Better passenger experience also means more bus usage which is also good for the old environment.
    • by dodobh (65811)
      The funny bit is that buses scale a lot better than cars. Reducing the number of cars on common traffic roads will speed up and smothen bus traffic.
  • How does a traffic jam cost a city money?
    • by PsEvo (1075643)
      Traffic cops or traffic cones?

      I know those cones must go for at least 3.5 million each.
    • by sgeye (757198)
      How about the time it takes city workers to reach and repair the road problems or the lost productivity of workers stuck in traffic. Time is money you know.
      • by PsEvo (1075643)
        Actually, given that logic, it would cost the entire economy money, as there are people stuck who do not work for the city as well. I assume this only applies for traffic jams; road repair is sort of irrelevant, unless you are "repairing" the traffic jam? O.o
      • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

        Then we don't need Software. We need MONSTER TRUCKS!!!!!!
        People get two warnings to get the hell out of the way. If they don't comply, they get run the hell over.
        It will be expensive at first, but only a few examples will have to be made before people stop being assshats.

        Driver: there is a wreck up ahead
        Passenger: Get out of here man.
        Driver: Why?
        - Sirens in background -
        Passenger: We need to make way for emergency vehicles!
        - Crunching metal sounds coming closer -
        Driver: Fuck them! I wanna see
    • I think they mean the people who live there, not the municipal government.

    • Re: (Score:1, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward
      I guess there are several ways and I might be missing some but:
      - Tourism: If people visiting a city fail to move the tourists, their experience is not good and will not recommend anyone to come back.
      - Buses: If buses (In some parts a government service) are stuck in traffic, they will consume more gas.
      - Taxes: If your company takes longer to deliver packages or receiving them, less amount of items are sold and therefore both the company and the government lose.
      - Roads: If heavy trucks get stuck in traff
  • by yagu (721525) * <yayagu.gmail@com> on Tuesday July 03, 2007 @03:54PM (#19734883) Journal

    If this is really true, big cities are spending over $1B a year for traffic problems, they should stop buying them and spend that money elsewhere.

  • If your car can still function after the accident, get it off the road. If the other person's cannot or is unwilling, use your vehicle to push theirs onto the shoulder. Yes, it's that important.
    • more importantly: fine those who do not attempt to comply 1/365th of the estimate.
    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      by edsyc (1088833)
      I've lived in places where they would tell you not to move your car, so that it is easier for the cops to decide who caused the accident. I think some people won't move their car because, if they do, the guilty driver can lie and blame the accident on other drivers.
      • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

        by melandy (803088)

        I've lived in places where they would tell you not to move your car, so that it is easier for the cops to decide who caused the accident.

        I've always heard the same thing. However, "they" is my dad, who thinks that an accident is the end of the world and an opportunity for someone to cash in on suing you.

        In the past when I have been in accidents, I've always left the car where it sat. As soon as the cops show up, they move the cars without looking at anything to get traffic moving again, so I've ju

    • by guruevi (827432)
      You forgot: document the accident first, best done with extra witnesses (cops work, but are usually bad at it) otherwise your insurance will not pay you out. Someone I know had it happen, they pushed the car off the road and the insurance couldn't verify anything anymore since the other side changed their story. Just leave your car there and call your insurance to see what to do next, record your phone conversation with your insurance provider if possible, always have a camera in the car. My insurer gives m
  • ease traffic back-ups at lower cost, particularly in rural areas

    traffic jams cost the average city almost a billion dollars a year
    So how much do they cost a rural area?
  • by Animats (122034) on Tuesday July 03, 2007 @04:23PM (#19735235) Homepage

    CALTRANS has had that operational on Bay Area and LA freeways for the last ten years.

    Here's the current status for the SF Bay Area [ca.gov].

    The detector loops on the freeways report speed and traffic density data ("70 MPH, 14 veh/30 seconds"). A map display at the local CALTRANS control center shows spots where there's an unexpected discontinuity with the previous section. The control center then turns on the appropriate traffic cameras, which have pan, tilt, and zoom, so they can get a close look at the problem. They they can send tow trucks, ambulances, police cars, fire trucks, road repair crews, cleanup crews, or whatever's needed.

    You can watch much of the camera output, alhough, being an old system, it's RealPlayer. Most of the cameras are pointed in somewhat random directions, because they're usually just left pointing at whatever incident needed to be looked at last.

    You can see the incident log at the CHP incident log site. The control center sometimes initiates entries, but the guys who actually go to the site finish them.

    Typical entries:

    • Incident: 1662 Type: Traffic Hazard Location: SB I110 JSO W ADAMS BLVD
      1:09PM VEH STALLED IN LANES, PTY UNDER VEH WORKING ON IT
      1:13PM CHP Unit Enroute
  • My solution to accident-caused traffic backups features two components: A bulldozer, to get the wrecks off the road ASAP*, and a long portable canvas screen between the wreck and the travel lanes, so dumbass rubberneckers don't have anything to look at.

    *willing to make exceptions for wrecks with people still in the cars
  • Actually, it doesn't seem to be the 'average city' it looks like it's the 'average city' in a group of 72 major cities. Which could, in turn, mean many things. But I haven't read the 2002 paper so it's hard to pin this down.
  • We can't even keep the pot holes filled here. A country in ruin with crumbling infrastructure, busy playing bully all over the world.
  • "He then wrote computer algorithms that can capture a vehicle's length as it passes over a detector. Once a vehicle of similar length passed over the next loop, the computer could match the two signals and calculate the vehicle's travel time. Based on each car's travel time, the software was able to determine within three and a half minutes after traffic began to slow that a traffic jam had formed."

    I'm probably missing something here but how do they determine the length of the car when they don't know it's
    • by Ed Avis (5917)
      Suppose you can see when the front of the car passes the back of the detector, and when the front of the car passes the front of the detector. That gives you its speed (time taken divided by the length of the detector, which you know). Then suppose you can see when the back of the car passes the back of the detector. This lets you work out the length of the vehicle: speed times the time between when the front of the car passes the back of the detector and when the back of the car passes the back of the d
    • You don't need to know the lengths of vehicles. You just need to know the average density.

      It's called occupancy [204.249.106.151].

    • by colinbg (757240)
      You are absolutely correct. However, in most loops installations they pair them in the lane to use two detectors to determine speed (time traveled between the two). However, new technology is allowing the use of signature analysis to determine vehicles by the signal characteristics when it passes over, however, in stop and go traffic this is very complicated and not as reliable (and length can only still be estimated). Loops are like metal detectors and produce a greater signal is denser or larger type veh
  • by Science_Writer (758048) on Tuesday July 03, 2007 @05:46PM (#19736317) Homepage
    Hi, everyone. I'm the author of the news release referenced in the post... It looks like you linked to an older story. The new one is here: http://researchnews.osu.edu/archive/smartbox.htm [osu.edu] Thanks for posting it! Pam Gorder
  • Damn people following too close, that's what. Back off! Three second rule. Should be law.
    • Re: (Score:1, Funny)

      by Anonymous Coward
      I agree!

      I'd write more but I'm typing this on my iPhone from the left lane on the 520 bridge. From all the honking you'd think somebody already caused an accident.
    • It is. Newton wrote it.
  • Require cell operators to provide anonymous traffic speeds as a condition of licensing. It's a pure software solution. Of course they won't like it (people stuck in traffic reach for what revenue-producing device?) but at least they can claim carbon credits.

"Ahead warp factor 1" - Captain Kirk

Working...