Vanderbilt University Study Offers Insight Into Traffic Jam Patterns
The research will be used to understand how and why phantom traffic jams, or stop-and-go traffic with no obvious cause, occur.
Vanderbilt University and Axis Communications announced the release of its findings from a research testbed, known as I-24 Mobility Technology Interstate Observation Network (I-24 MOTION), that looked into the causes of traffic jams when there were no apparent explanations such as accidents or significant roadwork.
In conjunction with the Tennessee Department of Transportation (TDOT), Vanderbilt University deployed a testbed along a four-mile stretch of Interstate 24 in the Nashville-Davidson County Metropolitan area in 2022, according to a press release. The research uses data captured by Axis Communications video cameras to understand traffic congestion patterns and vehicle behavior. This data is anonymously captured using AI trajectory algorithms specially developed by Vanderbilt.
“It’s not your traditional use of video cameras,” said Dr. Will Barbour, Research Scientist at Vanderbilt University. “We’re assembling thousands of anonymized points of data on the path of each vehicle through the testbed. We’re analyzing how vehicles interact with each other, hold following distances, and change lanes. We’re analyzing how traffic waves propagate through the roadways and how congestion forms and dissipates over time.”
Vanderbilt mounted 294 Axis PTZ cameras on 43 poles, ranging between 110 and 135 feet tall, equipped with MG SQUARED camera lowering devices. Grouped in clusters of six along the highway and clusters of 12 at the on/off ramps, the cameras capture the time and space trajectory of every vehicle on the road. To understand vehicle-to-vehicle interactions at a microscopic level, the study categorizes vehicles – such as pickups and semi-trucks, vans, motorcycles, and cars – to assess how their driving dynamics influence the traffic stream.
The research will be used to understand how and why phantom traffic jams, or stop-and-go traffic with no obvious cause, occur. Additionally, by unlocking a new understanding of how individual vehicles influence traffic, says the press release, vehicle and infrastructure design alike can be optimized in the future to reduce traffic concerns and to improve safety, air quality, and fuel efficiency.
“Axis Communications’ collaboration with Vanderbilt University demonstrates how innovative, emerging applications of enhanced video can be used to solve for real-life problems and provide value beyond traditional security use cases,” said Anthony Incorvati, Transportation Segment Manager for Axis. “This pioneering research initiative pushes the boundaries of computer vision and what AI, analytics and security technologies can achieve. The accuracy and granularity of the insights and data that are being collected will have a global impact to advance the future of mobility.”
The I-24 MOTION research initiative from Vanderbilt University’s Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering is funded by a grant from the Federal Highway Administration Congestion Mitigation and Air Quality Improvement Program. Currently, according to the press release, there is no expiration date planned for the project since it continues to help transportation scientists and other interested parties unlock the mysteries of freeway tie-ups and their impact on motorist behavior, air quality, and roadway safety.
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