Highway Warning System Developed by UC Engineers

Could Mean Fewer Traffic Delays in 1998

[message sign image] [traffic image]
Jan. 7, 1997, 1997
Contact for photos or information: Chris Curran
(513) 556-1806 (O)

Cincinnati -- Engineers at the University of Cincinnati have designed a portable, real-time traffic information system which can help drivers find the safest and fastest route through congested highway construction zones. The novel system will be implemented by the Ohio Department of Transportation this spring.

The system is called TIPS for Travel Time Prediction System, and it was developed under the guidance of transportation engineer Prahlad Pant and electrical engineer Marios Polycarpou. Unlike other traffic management systems, TIPS is completely automated and portable. It also provides real-time information to drivers, warning them about delays ahead. That gives drivers time to exit a highway and use an alternate route.

"Our accuracy of travel time estimation is within an average of three minutes," said Polycarpou. "We can estimate travel time to plus or minus three minutes. Most likely, it will be less than the predicted time..a conservative approach because people like that."

Travel time is calculated by a central personal computer housed in a construction trailer, which receives input from sensors along the highway leading up to the construction zone. The travel time predictions are then relayed to portable message signs for drivers to see.

"Currently, the typical sign reads 'Construction Ahead - Expect Delays' or 'Possible Delay Ahead.' But nobody knows how long the delay will be," said Pant. "Such messages do not provide specific, accurate or reliable information about the construction zone and more often than not, they end up being ignored by motorists."

By providing accurate information on travel time and encouraging drivers to use alternate routes during times of heavy traffic, TIPS is expected to reduce congestion and improve safety. Although TIPS was designed for use in highway construction zones, it can be used in any area experiencing regular traffic congestion.

"In this age of information technology, people expect information to be available at their finger tips," noted Pant. "Lack of information is a major cause of driver irritation and frustration on congested highways."

TIPS was developed as an Intelligent Transportation System (ITS) research project funded by the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) and the Ohio Department of Transportation (ODOT). It was field tested at two locations along Interstate 71 near Cincinnati and along I-70 in Dayton during a recent bridge repair project.

Pant and Polycarpou will present their data from the field testing in an international conference to be held in Beijing, China this July. Pant and Polycarpou will publish their modeling methodology in the Journal of Mathematical and Computer Modelling. Previous findings have been published in the Proceedings of the National Aerospace and Electronics Conference and in the Proceedings of the Conference on Neural Network Applications in Highway and Vehicle Engineering.

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