Australian varsity graduate invents electronic traffic gridlock detector


The system identifies changes in the Earth's magnetic field at intersections to detect passing or stopped cars – an alternative to the wired inductive loop detectors now in place at most traffic lights, and then uses radio communication to transmit the data to roadside traffic controllers.

Graham Rivers-Brown, a graduate in computer science and electrical engineering at La Trobe University, says his battery-powered device could piggyback on this new wireless system, and it can do it for $120 per vehicle plus $1,000 per intersection.

Rivers-Brown's system uses a GPS device installed in vehicles to transmit data about their location and speed to wireless data access points at intersections and other high traffic locations. Transmitted via a 2.4GHz wireless radio network, the data is interpreted and displayed on a computer screen at a remote location to reveal how the traffic is flowing at all those points under observation.

Traffic authorities could then divert or remobilise the traffic to break the gridlock – by altering electronically-controlled speed limits on freeways, reducing red-light waiting time at intersections, or other traffic management processes.

Rivers-Brown recently illustrated how his "Smart Intersections + GPS" system works for a television news report, using a laptop computer and Google Earth software.

In a vehicle fitted with a GPS receiver, a data-processing device and a radio transmitter, he drove at varying speeds from the University's main Melbourne campus at Bundoora through busy suburban streets – interpreting the journey in real-time on a Google Earth map on a laptop computer. The system recorded the car's location every second of its journey.

Given the accelerating uptake of driver-controlled satellite navigation aids like TomTom or NavMan, Rivers-Brown says the GPS data collecting component might easily be integrated into these commercial units.

Rivers-Brown's project supervisor, Peter Stewart, says that an ideal system would "know" every vehicle's origin, destination, and route taken, and this system promises to be a valuable step towards achieving that.

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