Oakland County, Michigan, is part of the Detroit-Metro area, and is composed of 61 cities and townships, including Troy, Auburn Hills, Pontiac (County Seat), etc., and has a residential population of just over 1.2 million (2010 U.S. Census). According to the Detroit Regional Chamber of Commerce, Oakland County currently ranks in the Top 10 of highest income counties in the U.S. with populations of more than one million. It is also one of the largest centers for employing engineers and related professions. A couple of its economic initiatives – “Medical Main Street” and “Automation Alley” are well known for their progressive technology-based business development programs focused on bringing highly technical jobs and other business opportunities to the County. Composed of nearly 1,000 business members, Automation Alley, initiated in 1999, serves as a product and technology development feeder program for a large cross section of industries, including automotive, defense and manufacturing just to name a few. Largely as a result of Oakland County’s forward-looking economic initiatives, it has experienced rapid and continual annual population growth of more than 7 percent on average from 1960. While the County experienced some economic slowdown during the last recession, it fared much better than most counties in Michigan due to its diverse economy that was not so heavily dependent upon automotive manufacturing. Oakland County’s growth can also be attributed to its investment in infrastructure, particularly its roadway network. Its roadways help ensure efficient mobility for the county’s populace and commerce.
Rather than relying solely on constructing new roads to accommodate the growing driving populous, which would not be sustainable strategy, the Road Commission for Oakland County (RCOC) looked to Intelligent Transportation System (ITS) technology to enhance roadway efficiencies now, and in the future. RCOC was an early adopter of ITS, deploying adaptive traffic signal control in 1991 as part of a new traffic management solution (today, RCOC manages the largest adaptive signal system in the North America with more than 700 signals controlled by the adaptive system). With the harsh weather conditions of the region, the RCOC quickly realized that the ASCT would benefit from a more reliable detection solution that required less maintenance and offered safer working conditions for RCOC employees. That solution was video detection.
Video Detection and The Future of Oakland County’s Traffic Management
The RCOC has had an open door policy to try new technologies as part of its FAST-TRAC (Faster and Safer Travel Through Routing and Advanced Controls) program. This practice came into play not long after the first adaptive system was deployed at 28 intersections in the City of Troy. The decision was made to leverage video detection in the form of Autoscope cameras (today, RCOC manages the largest network of Autoscope video detection cameras (RCOC currently manages the largest network of Autoscope video detection cameras in the world – more than 2,000). This provided the RCOC with three critical capabilities: accurate vehicle detection, traffic data collection, and to eventually push video surveillance footage to a real-time traffic Web site: http://www.rcocweb.org/default.aspx.
According to RCOC Signal Systems Division Supervisor Ahmad Jawad, video detection provided RCOC’s FAST-TRAC program new realms of capability and cost savings. In addition to adaptive signal control being dependent on reliable and accurate vehicle detection, video detection helped verify the effectiveness of the ITS program. “Autoscope detection cameras can be maintained year around without problems,” said Jawad. “The maintenance is much cheaper compared to traditional loop detectors, and they’re safer for field crews to install and maintain. Also, video detection provides us with 24-hour traffic data since they are virtual counters.”
Because of the 24-hour data logging capabilities, the network of Autoscope cameras is also an asset for RCOC’s Real-Time Traffic Web Site. This site provides comprehensive real-time traffic information to Oakland County travelers at http://www2.rcocweb.org. The Web site, one of the first of its kind in the U.S., integrates freeway and county arterial traffic information, such as speed, roadwork, freeway incidents, changeable message signs, real-time video, congestion status, road weather conditions, etc.
Countywide Deployment and Improvement to Quality of Life
Since the successful installation in the city of Troy, RCOC, in partnership with Michigan DOT, has gone on to deploy more than 2000 video detection sensors through out the county as of 2014. This represents the largest network of video detection cameras managed by one transportation department in the world.
This countywide deployment has not only helped to improve traffic conditions, it has also helped make significant advancements in safety and quality of life. The RCOC has and continues to commission periodic traffic studies throughout the transportation management upgrade, and the results have been impressive. “While stopped delays have been reduced by 20 percent, and travel times have improved by 32 percent along some of our major roads, it is the contribution of these systems to improving the County’s quality of life that is really important,” said RCOC Managing Director Dennis G. Kolar. “The fact that Oakland County remained strong during the great recession and continues to thrive is a testament to the Road Commission’s innovative approach to improving the infrastructure, including transportation systems, in support of a knowledge-based economy, all of which positions the County well for emerging sectors such as Connected Cars.”
With additional Oakland County initiatives addressing emerging sectors such as Connected Cars, the County is poised to remain at the forefront of innovation, continuing to create more jobs in the higher wage technical fields. No doubt that Autoscope video detection will continue to play an important role in the County’s planned Connected Car Ecosystem, which will make Oakland County to be the first to initiate a countywide system of its kind.