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Open Access Publications from the University of California

Traffic Measurement and Vehicle Classification with a Single Magnetic Sensor


Wireless magnetic sensor networks offer a very attractive, low-cost alternative to inductive loops for traffic measurement in freeways and at intersections. In addition to vehicle count, occupancy and speed, the sensors yield traffic information (such as vehicle classification) that cannot be obtained from loop data. Because such networks can be deployed in a very short time, they can also be used (and reused) for temporary traffic measurement. This paper reports the detection capabilities of magnetic sensors, based on two field experiments. The first experiment collected a two-hour trace of measurements on Hearst Avenue in Berkeley. The vehicle detection rate is better than 99 percent (100 percent for vehicles other than motorcycles); and estimates of vehicle length and speed appear to be better than 90 percent. Moreover, the measurements also give inter-vehicle spacing or headways, which reveal such interesting phenomena as platoon formation downstream of a traffic signal. Results of the second experiment are preliminary. Sensor data from 37 passing vehicles at the same site are processed and classified into 6 types. Sixty percent of the vehicles are classified correctly, when length is not used as a feature. The classification algorithm can be implemented in real time by the sensor node itself, in contrast to other methods based on high scan-rate inductive loop signals, which require extensive offline computation. We believe that when length is used as a feature, 80-90 percent of vehicles will be correctly classified.

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