Smart Traffic Management System Aims to Keep Pedestrians, Cyclists Safe

As part of a public initiative to improve pedestrian safety, the Florida Department of Transportation deployed GRIDSMART computer vision and analytics technology in bustling East Orlando. The solution keeps an intelligent eye on crosswalk traffic flow and adjusts traffic signals to help keep pedestrians and cyclists out of harm’s way at busy city intersections.

 

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Image credit: GRIDSMART SMARTMOUNT Bell Camera

Whether in busy urban areas or on relatively quiet rural thoroughfares, pedestrian safety is a serious issue anywhere that foot and pedal traffic has to maneuver in close proximity to cars. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, more than 6,200 pedestrians were killed in traffic accidents in the US in 2020. Additionally, the CDC reports that an estimated 137,000 pedestrians were treated in emergency rooms for non-fatal crash-related injuries.  

Cyclists are also vulnerable to injury from car crashes. According to the Pedestrian and Bicycle Information Center, pedestrian and bicyclist fatalities increased by more than 50 percent in the ten-year period between 2009 and 2018. Nationally, 73 percent of pedestrian fatalities and 58 percent of bicyclist fatalities occur at non-intersections.

Sharing the Road

While protecting pedestrians and bicyclists from auto-involved injuries is important in every locale, measures to improve safety are even more critical in densely populated areas. One of those areas is East Orlando, FL, where many residents are dependent on walking and cycling to get around. East Orlando is bustling, home to the University of Central Florida, which has more than 64,000 students. The area also houses the Central Florida Research Park, which has 10,000+ employees working in more than 100 companies. 

While walking and cycling are popular in East Orlando, so is driving. Because it’s located on the fringes of the Orlando urbanized area, East Orlando connects to major employment, cultural, and entertainment destinations by a single tolled freeway.

With congestion from cars, bicycles, and pedestrians, the area was designated the most dangerous metro area for pedestrians by Smart Growth America’s 2019 Dangerous by Design report. Between 2008 and 2017, there were 656 pedestrian deaths in the area.

Improving Pedestrian Safety

In response, the Florida Department of Transportation (FDOT) District 5 launched PedSafe, a holistic pedestrian and bicycle safety improvement project aimed at reducing accidents by using innovative technologies.

At the center of the PedSafe program is a pedestrian and bicycle collision avoidance system that uses connected vehicle (CV) technologies to help reduce crashes at locations with high accident rates. The goal is to protect pedestrians based on their real-time movements, ensuring they have adequate time to cross streets before the crossing phase ends.

PedSafe senses pedestrian presence and potential conflicts and then interacts with signal timing infrastructure to enhance pedestrian service at intersections. Connections to existing traffic signal systems provide information on phasing changes along with pedestrian detection at each intersection, to manage conflicts and congestion.

PedSafe addresses three separate challenges. PedSafe:

  • Dynamically adjusts signal timings to allow pedestrians enough time to cross streets, to help eliminate the problem of pedestrians still in crosswalks when lights change.
  • Uses connected vehicle technology to warn drivers and pedestrians of a potential conflict, alerting vehicles to pedestrians and cyclists along their route.
  • Monitors pedestrian activity and break cycles during off-peak times, so pedestrians are less likely to be discouraged from using signalized crosswalks with very long cycle times.

Computer Vision on Duty at the Intersection

The FDOT chose GRIDSMART, an Intel® IoT Market Ready Solution, for intersection actuation, traffic data collection, and situation analysis. The system uses omnidirectional imaging and real-time computer vision technology. Its detection and tracking capabilities inform the traffic signal controller when pedestrians move through a crosswalk or bikes move through an intersection.

GRIDSMART is a single camera system that gathers and interprets vital traffic data at the  intersection, empowering traffic professionals to adjust signal timing and traffic flow strategies while enabling real-time monitoring and visual assessment.

Camara light with sensors

Image credit: GRIDSMART

GRIDSMART includes three components.

The SMARTMOUNT Bell Camera, which monitors intersections and collects data using ultra-wide angle fisheye optics to see the center of the intersection. Unlike legacy stop systems that provide long green times when there is a bicyclist, SMARTMOUNT enables extended green time based on actual intersection data, which can help protect slower travelers.

The GRIDSMART System Processor uses algorithms to process and analyze video while displaying calls, status, and intersection performance.

The GRIDSMART Client, an app that manages GRIDSMART solutions, runs on a laptop or desktop.The app allows traffic managers to set up counting and detection zones, view intersections, and generate performance reports. GRIDSMART uses the Intel® Distribution of OpenVINO™ toolkit in its visual processing engine.

Learn more about technology designed to help keep pedestrians safe:

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