Several technologies, each with its own strengths and weaknesses, are in contention to supplant conventional embedded loop sensors. Radar has been the leader in recent deployments, and video has been playing an important role, particularly outside the United States. But according to Dan Benjamin, Principal Analyst in the Transportation Research practice, the market may be shifting towards reader-based RFID technology.
What are the pros and cons of each?
Traditional traffic sensors collect vehicle speed and incident data without relying on vehicle-mounted tags to provide any information. Advanced radar-based sensor infrastructure can count cars and provide speed information for each vehicle, providing a robust dataset. While inexpensive compared to digital video sensing systems, it is costly compared with tag readers. The newest video systems aim to provide data similar to that delivered by radar. While they are not yet as accurate and are more costly, they have the added benefit of being useful for tracking vehicles and incidents through more conventional means.
Reader systems are relatively inexpensive and collect a relatively limited dataset with current technology. Their biggest drawback is the need for a high population of cars equipped with the tags. Those will only exist where reader-based toll collection systems are already popular.
One capability of reader-based systems may be a "pro" or a "con" depending on whom you ask: surveillance. A comprehensive reader-based system would be able to deliver a given car's route to authorities: a boon for police, perhaps, but a civil libertarian's nightmare.
What do these trends mean to the industry? "Traffic infrastructure, for a number of reasons, is a market we expect to grow over the course of the decade," notes Benjamin. "Right now, companies with radar-based technology such as Wavetronix, EIS, and Speedinfo seem poised to prosper. But there could also be a burgeoning market here for automotive identification RFID players such as Transcore, Mark IV, and Sirit."
The new study, "Real-Time Traffic Information," evaluates the use of cellular, satellite, RDS-TMC, VICS, DSRC, and digital radio technologies for real-time traffic systems, as well as the use of embedded roadway sensors, acoustic sensors, video, radar, microwave, RFID, and DSRC for collection of traffic information.