MnDOT Using Technology to Develop New, Safer Way to Gather Traffic Data

July 11, 2018 06:43 PM

The Minnesota Department of Transportation is using technology to develop a safer way to gather traffic data.

Currently, they count the number of vehicles that drive across any given road by laying down a black rubber strip called a pneumatic tube. Most drivers have driven over them countless times before, although they may not have noticed.


RELATED: KSTP Traffic Page

It's important work because it gathers data that helps determine how much funding Minnesota's roadways get and how they're designed. But here's the problem: laying the strips, especially on busy roads, can be dangerous work. So MnDOT is working on a way to replace the pneumatic tubes with GPS-based consumer and mobile technologies.
"We noticed that a lot of data is being collected by these provider companies of cell phone data, GPS data, Bluetooth data, and we were wondering if that data could possibly be used for traffic volumes," said MnDOT Traffic Forecasting and Analysis Director Gene Hicks.
So for example, cell phone companies already know you're driving along a particular highway because you've got their cell phone in your pocket, so why not use that information to get more data -- and more accurate data -- without having to walk into oncoming traffic to lay down a tube?

RELATED: MnDOT to Drivers: Stop Using Ramps Illegally in I-35W Construction Project

"My personal feeling is within one to two years we could start using this data for volume," Hicks said, adding that MnDOT wouldn't be privy to anyone's personal information, like who drove where or when. "We would just know how many people drove over that piece of road."
As of now, MnDOT isn't sure how much the new data source would cost, but they think the price of buying the information would be comparable to laying the tubes and getting the information themselves.


Josh Rosenthal

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