Safe Transportation Research & Education Center
Estimating Pedestrian Accident Exposure: Automated Pedestrian Counting Devices Report
- Author(s): Bu, Fanping
- Greene-Roesel, Ryan
- Diogenes, Mara Chagas
- Ragland, David R
- et al.
Automated methods are commonly used to count motorized vehicles, but are not
frequently used to count pedestrians. This is because the automated technologies
available to count pedestrians are not very developed, and their effectiveness has
not been widely researched. Moreover, most automated methods are used primarily
for the purpose of detecting, rather than counting, pedestrians (Dharmaraju et al.,
2001; Noyce and Dharmaraju, 2002; Noyce et al., 2006).
Automated pedestrian counting technologies are attractive because they have the
potential to reduce the labor costs associated with manual methods, and to record
pedestrian activity for long periods of time that are currently difficult to capture
through traditional methods. Data input and storage may also be less time
consuming than with manual methods.
On the other hand, the capital costs of automated equipment may be high;
specialized training may be required to operate it; and automated devices are
generally not capable of collecting information on pedestrian characteristics and
behavior. For these reasons, automated devices are not appropriate for all
pedestrian data collection efforts.
The choice between which method is more appropriate to collect pedestrian data
must be based on the accuracy level desired, budget constraints, and data needs
Automated Counting Technologies
Much of the research on automated pedestrian tracking devices has focused on
pedestrian detection, not pedestrian counting. Extensive reviews of pedestrian
detection technologies were conducted by Noyce and Dharmaraju (2002) and by
Chan et al. (2006). Technologies include piezoelectric sensors, acoustic, active and
passive infrared, ultrasonic sensors, microwave radar, laser scanners, video imaging
Of the technologies listed above, those most adaptable to the purpose of pedestrian
counting are: infra-red beam counters; passive infrared counters; piezoelectric pads;
laser scanners; and computer vision technology. None of these devices are widely
used for the purpose of counting pedestrians outdoors, but all have some potential to
be adapted for that purpose.
This report describes each of these technologies in detail, and discusses some of
the technical strengths and weaknesses of each method. It is important to be aware
that technical limitations are only one consideration among many when choosing an
appropriate counting device. The device “packaging,” such as the method and
location of installation may be equally important. For example, the location and
accessibility of the device may create liability issues or promote vandalism.