Stormy Weather

Oregon is one of the many states experiencing high water difficulties this spring. The National Weather Service in Portland warns that today, April 8, the Willamette River is high at Harrisburg, Corvallis and Albany due to heavy rains in the central Coast Range, central Cascade Foothills, and south Willamette Valley. Just this morning, State Highway 58 near Oakridge in Lane County became closed in both directions when earth and trees slid down a rain-soaked hillside and across the road.

In other parts, I-29 through Iowa and Missouri remains closed since March 19th, following flooding that submerged whole swaths of farmland. And storms are predicted to hit
the Plains, Midwest and East later this week, bringing rain and possibly hail and tornadoes.

The Oregon Department of Transportation is only one of many state departments issuing safety tips for “weathering” storm season 2019. The Oregon DOT reminds drivers that heavy rains can create dangerous conditions that include reduced visibility, reduction traction between tires and road, and compromised car handling. It advises:

Slow down, especially through high water. Driving through several inches of water at high speed can cause you to lose control of the car.

Be aware of the potential for hydroplaning, when your tires encounter more water than they can scatter. Your tire loses traction with the road and if this occurs, ease off the gas, gently apply the brakes and steer straight ahead.

Keep your distance; you may need more time to slow down.

Turn on your headlights to improve visibility.

Disengage your cruise control.

Check your brakes. After driving through a puddle, check that brakes are working properly by tapping them gently a few times.

The Wheels of the Bus Go Round and Round

 

“Hey, Bus Driver!” is what Madison passengers WON’T be saying on the new shuttle bus scheduled to begin operating in Madison, Wisconsin’s downtown. That’s because the 15-passenger people-hauler will be automated, electric and driverless.

There will be a driver on the shuttle’s initial runs actually, to watch out for safety, observe how the vehicle is functioning and reacting in traffic, and to answer passenger’s questions. The forthcoming venture is planned as a demonstration – a analysis project, that is, whose mission is not only to carry passengers but to be a test buggy, studied by researchers who aim to make autonomous vehicles part of the country’s transportation system. The United States Department of Transportation, chose Madison, Wisconsin (headquarters of TrafficCast International!) as one of only 10 cities to examine automated shuttles in real-time traffic. The one-to-two-year project will be guided by members of the University of Wisconsin, Madison’s Traffic operations and Safety (TOPS) Laboratory.

The idea for a long-term study picked up steam last April when a 15-passenger shuttle bus made by the French company Navya carried a total of 750 passengers on test rides around the UW campus over a two-day period.

For a route, city officials have targeted a near East-side revival corridor, burgeoning with newly-built high rise apartment buildings, and chic taverns and eateries. Initial plans have the driverless shuttle traveling an 8-block course from the State Capitol to a new music venue and back.

Passengers will ride at no charge during the driverless bus’s test phase. Researchers will be grading how the vehicle reacts to stimuli like bicycles and sudden situations, and how seamlessly, or not, it negotiates traffic while reaching a top speed of only 28 miles per hour. Engineers say trips may be suspended during icy weather.

City officials see many plusses from the use of automated vehicles, from easing traffic congestion and pollution, to diminishing the scramble for limited downtown parking spaces, to offering late night transport.

Project managers are accepting bids presently from shuttle companies, and hope to have the project launched, and driverless trolley cars on city streets, by fall, 2019.

Responsive Road Protects Pedestrians

With driverless and electric cars dominating most mainstream transportation news, the focus is often on drivers. But London-Based urban technology firm, Umbrellium puts pedestrians first.

Ubrellium created the first-ever responsive road surface, called Starling Crossing. “Starling” stands for “Stigmergic Adaptive Responsive Learning”. The prototype was installed in South London, but one can see the utility of this technology in any modern bustling city, where pedestrian populations are ever-increasing. And with the danger of smartphone-distracted driver also on the rise, prioritizing pedestrian safety is a necessity.

Ubrellium describes the functionality of Starling Crossing on their website:

“. . .cameras track objects that are moving across the road surface, distinguishing between pedestrians, cyclists and vehicles, calculating their precise locations, trajectories and velocities and anticipating where they may move to in the next moment.”

You can see Starling Crossing in action below:

How to Conquer Your Fear and Win Prizes

One of the winners of TrafficCast’s Hack the Commute says it wasn’t always easy for her to pitch in front of a crowd of people. Yet, Dorcas Olatunji beat out plenty of competition in TrafficCast’s Hackathon – a coding competition which took place in June, 2018. Here’s how she upped her game to the winning level.

https://technical.ly/delaware/2019/02/13/this-aspiring-teen-entrepreneur-has-some-sage-advice-for-first-time-pitch-presenters-dorcas-olatunji/

BlueTOAD Training Monday, Feb. 11

Phase II of TrafficCast International’s online BlueTOAD/BlueARGUS client training resumes on Monday. The format of this training focuses on specific, real world examples and various use cases. It allows BlueTOAD/BlueARGUS clients, like state and municipal transportation department, to imagine and inquire about real world examples and set their own particular challenges to the BlueTOAD and BlueARGUS experts for solving.

How to use the BlueTOAD/BlueARGUS system to improve travel patterns for major events would be one focus, for instance. Although some 400 online courses have been reserved, there is room for more. For more information, or to sign up, go to
https://www.signupgenius.com/go/60B0F44A5A82FAAFD0-bluetoadblueargus6.

How a Bunny Path Saves Lives

animal deer road snow

Photo by Snapwire on Pexels.com

The state of Virginia is deer-friendly! And to prove it, the Virginia Department of Transportation launched a project to reduce deer vs. car/truck collisions. The project included construction of fencing along stretches of Interstate 64 near Charlottesville to guide deer and other wildlife to two underpasses. This design would prevent deer and other wildlife from crossing the highway right in the path of four to 18-wheeled vehicles.

After one year of use – one of the deer and bunny paths opened January 2018 – Virginia transportation officials report that the previous year’s average of 7.5 deer-vehicle collisions along that one-mile stretch was reduced to one. Further, use of the underpasses by deer and other wildlife increased significantly over the year.

Virginia DOT is ready to expand the project into other high risk locations, utilizing the new higher standard design and wildlife fencing placement along existing underpasses throughout the state.

Behind the Scenes at TrafficCast


When looking at your GPS for directions or for a way to navigate around hairy traffic situations, it’s likely not often you think too hard about how the information is getting there. After all, you have some place to go. But when you stop to consider the marvel that is your standard GPS, you may wonder just how it all actually works. While a lot of that data is coming from the help of satellites and road sensors with traffic tracking technology, a great deal of what you see relies on a human touch. So who are these mysterious traffic people and how do they do it? Keep reading and we’ll help demystify the process a little.

office

The above picture shows a few of our Traffic Operators working the night shift in our operations center in Wilmington, De. This office, along with our office in Madison, runs from 5:30 a.m. to 9:30 p.m. before handing off coverage to our partner office in Shanghai, China until 5:30 a.m. the following morning—meaning TrafficCast is a 24/7 operation. Traffic never sleeps and neither does our coverage. We divide all 50 states (along with areas of Canada and Mexico) into “markets” which are assigned to each operator. Operators work in the same markets each day, allowing them to learn the regions like the back of their hand. This familiarity allows them to quickly navigate areas and track any potential traffic impacts.

You’ll notice a wall of TVs in the front of the space. This helps us keep tabs on incidents impacting traffic from a variety of sources including: DOT highway cameras, Facebook and Twitter live streams, weather reports, national news, and more. Whether it’s traffic jams, derailed trains, wildfires, hurricanes, or a truckload of chickens running loose on a highway (yes this has happened, and quite recently at that) it all comes across our TV screens for operators to monitor. The more eyes on the road, the better.

You’ll also see each operator utilizes three computer monitors at their workstation. This means their heads are, quite literally, always on a swivel. While the TV wall helps the office track the most severe traffic situations, multiple monitors allow operators to survey their respective markets at a rapid pace. Monitoring Social Media, DOT, news, maps, and of course our own curation system to produce the most accurate and up-to-date information possible.

Hopefully this gives you a bit more insight to the work that helps guide you on your everyday journeys. For more information about what’s going on here at TrafficCast or for news on the latest and greatest updates on the transportation industry, follow us @TrafficCast on Twitter.