A new system using thermal imaging cameras to spot wrong-way drivers on a highway in Phoenix, Arizona, has detected 15 vehicles entering using off ramps and hence driving in the wrong direction.
The system on the I-17 which went into operation in January at off-ramps and at intervals along the road has helped ensure none of these vehicles actually entered the main lanes of the carriageway, instead turning around on the slip roads.
If a car enters in the wrong direction a horn sounds in Arizona’s Department of Transportation’s Traffic Operations Center and alerts state’s Department of Public Safety to help troopers reach the scene as quickly as possible. A window also appears on operators’ work stations showing video from the camera and providing other data. Operators can immediately activate digital message boards in the area alerting drivers to the potential danger and instructing them to exit the freeway.
“While the system can’t prevent people from driving while impaired, the results so far are promising as a countermeasure to this deadly behaviour,” said Brent Cain, who leads ADOT’s Transportation Systems Management and Operations division. “The goal is reducing the risk of wrong-way crashes by saving valuable time when a wrong-way vehicle is detected.”
The $4 million system includes 90 thermal detection cameras positioned above exit ramps and the mainline of the freeway between the I-10 “Stack” interchange near downtown to the Loop 101 interchange in north Phoenix.
ADOT and partner agencies say they will evaluate the system’s performance over the next year while it looks toward using it on other freeways, including the new Loop 202 South Mountain Freeway that’s scheduled to open in late 2019.