TOPXVIEW™ TRAFFIC MANAGEMENT SOFTWARE

SYSTEM INTEGRATION

Integration is the process of bringing many subsystems together into one system, and ensuring that the subsystems function together as a single, unified system.

In the world of Traffic Management Software Integration means exactly that. Typical Traffic Management Control Center consists of at least a dozen (and often many more) subsystems that, if used separately, are not used to their full potential. Integration is the key method to in making roads safer, traffic more fluent, and costs optimized.

Example!

A good example why integration is necessary is incident on the road.
Let's assume there is a Video Automatic Incident Detection (Video AID, Automatic Video Incident Detection or AVID, Video Detection, Video Incident Detection System or VIDS – many different acronyms are in use) system detecting an incident. Let's also assume the systems, including Video AID, are not integrated. When an incident is detected, an operator would have to visually confirm the incident. To do so, the operator would have to look at all the camera feeds and try to detect where the incident happened. Looking at so many different camera feeds is very confusing. Once the operator detects the incident location, Dynamic Message Signs (DMS) need to be set to warn the drivers of danger and to direct traffic. The operator would have to start the DMS application and set each and every sign, upstream and downstream from the incident, manually, one by one. At the same time, the operator would have to dispatch emergency crew. If the incident happened inside a tunnel, the entire process would get even more complicated: with rising CO levels in the bore, the operator would need to turn on the fans in the right direction to air out the bore. At the same time, there would be numerous calls from road crew, traffic participants and media.
In an integrated environment, once Video Automatic Incident Detection detected an incident, the video feeds from the cameras at the place of the incident (and adjacent sections) would appear on the video wall. At the same time, automatic procedure would set the VMS to efficiently manage traffic. The system would automatically send notifications to emergency crews. The system would also turn on the fans, and played the PA messages, leaving little room for human error. The operator would just have to confirm the actions.
The results would be unambiguous and response time would be faster. Help would arrive sooner, secondary traffic accidents would be prevented, road would reopen for traffic sooner. Integrated system would inevitably ensure higher traffic safety, traffic fluency and lower cost of operation.
Integration is essential for implementing automatic procedures (aka “scenarios”) or ramp metering.

- “Traditional” vs. True Integration

In traditional integration, each subsystem has its own user interface in a control center, and those interfaces are not really connected. There are several operators engaged in operating the system, each supervising one or more subsystems.

This kind of approach might cause practical problems in case of incident (as illustrated in the video on this page and explained in the example) making the road/tunnel less safe:

Complex System Operation:

  • Multiple GUIs: on average, there are 4-6 different GUIs in a control center, instead of just one; the operator runs all over the control to confirm an alarm on one GUI, set the message on Dynamic Message Sign on another GUI, turn the traffic light to red on the third GUI, etc.
  • System response is highly dependent on operator’s reactions: most of the actions are done by the operator, making the possibility of error is very high; depending on the operator's level of experience and skill, the reaction might be faster or slower.
  • Complicated sequence of operation: as illustrated in the example, the expected system reactions are anything but simple. In order to achieve safer and more fluent traffic, more and more subsystems are added, which introduces more steps to be taken to resolve a situation. Consequently, the possibility of error is higher.
  • Unclear division of responsibility among the operators: with multiple operators operating multiple subsystems, when things go wrong (and they will go wrong in such complicated environments), they start pointing fingers at one another.

Higher Operational Cost:

  • Expensive maintenance - maintenance costs of poorly integrated control centers can be more than 60% higher than well integrated systems.
  • More operators needed at the same time.

Invisible System Benefits:

  • Expensive subsystems have been implemented but are not used to its full potential (see example).
  • Slow reaction to incidents (up to 5 times slower!).

- True Integration

Simplified, in true integration, all the subsystems are integrated on the same Traffic Management Software platform. Any event or alarm in any subsystem can trigger a reaction in any or all other subsystems.

Basic postulates of true integration are:

  • Unifying system operations at all levels (physical, communication, controlling, managing);
  • Making machines communicate through customized interfaces between various equipment & systems;
  • Anticipating phase implementation and enabling interoperability with other and future systems;


Furthermore, true integration:

  • Enables implementation of complex alarms (i.e. complex algorithms involving several different variables like traffic density, weather conditions, etc., resulting in a better, more precise reactions).
  • Enables automatic reactions throughout multiple subsystems.
  • Provides complete tool for handling any situation on the road (incidents, traffic disturbances, weather, special events etc.).
  • Ensures unified incident and crisis handling reaction.
  • Virtually eliminates human error.
  • Enables learning curve for the system and the operator – as a result of integration possibilities and experience, new ideas are born and translated to new system procedures or other improvements, enhancing the system.
  • Enables adding new, or editing existing procedures for any road situation.


Most of all true integration is a base for creation of advanced tools that are used to make traffic safer, more fluent and managing it in cost effective manner.

STEP FURTHER – ADDING INTELLIGENCE TO THE SYSTEM

Today advanced traffic management system cannot be successful in fulfilling its purpose if added value isn't created by integrating all its subsystems. This means fully utilizing traffic infrastructure and capitalizing on it by increasing safety and smoothness of traffic flow. To fully utilize the system, there are number of different System Modules, some of which are:


Just like traffic patterns evolve, advanced traffic management system also evolves, grows, and becomes more complex. The system might get additional equipment on the road, new subsystems might be added, or even new miles of highway might be built. Maybe even new functionalities might be added (like e-call interface) or it gets connected to other traffic management control centers.

The question is how this could be achieved and the answer is:

  • system architecture that has to be such to enable it and
  • tools should be provided in order to allow operator/concessionaire a control on how they want their system to develop and tailor the platform to their needs by designing on their own: system, processes and reports.

- Alarm Management

Alarm Management, should be an integral part of any Traffic Management Software and its role is handling different alarms.

Besides typical preconfigured, device-type alarms (i.e. loss of communication) the system should also feature custom alarms. Custom alarms are completely user-defined alarms where user configure all aspects of an alarm: choose any device (or multiple devices), select its properties from drop-down menus (such as priority and type that determines its behavior), and define the conditions which must be fulfilled for an alarm to become active.

Such a user-defined alarm can then become an entry point to Scenarios.

- Incident and Situation Management

Automatization of certain processes during resolving a certain event on the road or tunnel can influence traffic safety and traffic flow fluency as well as influence operator’s/concessionaire’s income.

Automated procedures that make up Incident and Situation Management (a.k.a. Scenarios) are sets of predefined rules that should be executed in a certain situation: from most dangerous, like fire in the tunnel, to everyday situations, like road works. Scenario is an abstraction which encompasses all aspects of resolving incidental or regular real life situations in traffic network. It could be presented as a work-flow where each step is either an request for operator to took an action (i.e. “please confirm video automatic incident detection alarm”) or an automatic system reaction (i.e. “turn on traffic program accident ahead, set speed limit to 40”).

This concept ensures that each operator reacts in exactly the same manner, thus reducing the possibility of human error to a minimum and providing the fastest response time.

This, along with the true integration through interaction of all deployed subsystems, ensures top level safety on the road. Scenario can be triggered automatically by an alarm (i.e. sensor detecting traffic irregularities), or it can be triggered manually by an operator (i.e. maintenance). Automatically triggered scenarios could result in automatic reactions of the system or could require the operator’s input, depending on the event triggering them.

Implementing systematic, step-by-step procedures in the system as automated procedures alleviates the workload from operators. The workload usually done by several operators can now be completed by a single person, ensuring uniformity of operator reactions.

Some of the key premises of Scenario Manager should be:

  • Taking input from all subsystems
  • Ability to control and manage (send commands to) all devices in the system
  • Complex trigger evaluation based on the input from the entire traffic network
  • Operator guided automation – decision flow based on operator's input
  • Check lists (procedure lists) which the guide operator through situation resolution
  • Severity levels – every scenario has an attribute which determines its impact in the system.
  • Automatic creation of environment for the operator – when scenario becomes active, video from relevant CCTV cameras is presented on alarm monitors, area of interest is focused in GUI, etc.
  • Management of multiple simultaneously running scenarios at the same or different locations
  • Conflict resolution during traffic plan activation – when new traffic plan is about to be executed, operator gets a preview of the new state. If operator determines that the new traffic plan would set some elements (typically Variable Message Signs) not following the current road situation, operator can cancel execution of some parts of the traffic plan (or completely cancel traffic plan execution)
  • Only authorized users can control certain scenarios' execution based on severity level
  • Scenario management supervision – some users can get overview of entire scenario management subsystem with history data and current data for every scenario in the system etc.

What if a system is not built on these premises?

Consequences will be compromised safety, financial loss and disruption of traffic flow.

The system without built in priority hierarchy could have serious repercussions. For example, if there are two incidents: unauthorized entrance to tunnel safety passage, and a burning vehicle a mile down the road, the system might deal with the unauthorized entrance, as opposed to burning vehicle, . It is needless to mentioned traffic fluency or financial aspects of this case.

- Video Management System

If there is a single system existing in any traffic control management center it is a video management. Video management should be much more than just enabling operator to watch cameras deployed by the road – and it is often impossible to watch the picture from all cameras simultaneously.

Video management should be much more than just enabling operator to watch cameras deployed by the. It should be a scalable and open video platform enabling the management of all aspects of digital video content inside the system. This includes:

  • Video walls,
  • Live video feeds,
  • Pan/ Tilt/Zoom (PTZ) control,
  • Continuous video recording,
  • Video playback and export,
  • Video equipment configuration,
  • Video keyboards,
  • Motion detection,
  • Video Incident Detection (VID),
  • Traffic counting,
  • Alarm/event recordings and metadata engine.

Video subsystem should provide seamless integration with all existing system components and subsystems. The most important system components subsystems to integrate with are alarms, event management, triggers, database logs and alerts reporting.

Implementing the standard video protocols enables users to control various types of video equipment (cameras, encoders, VID cards, network recorders, etc.) through uniform, programmable and intuitive user interface. Any number of client applications (including external) can connect to the system and request both live and stored (recorded) video streams. In addition, all video equipment can interoperate with all other subsystems in the system and vice versa. This enables the implementation of a powerful, automatic alarm/event/trigger reactions and complex incident management scenarios.

- Ramp Metering

Ramp Metering is a valuable instrument for optimizing traffic flow and maximizing the use and benefits of highway infrastructure.

Ramp metering function is to balance highway capacity with the actual ramp demand, controlling the number of vehicles entering the highway. With splitting and controlling the platoons of vehicles entering mainline, ramp metering decrease upstream and downstream congestions and minimize potential “merge collisions”. By controlling the rate at which vehicles are allowed to enter a freeway, the flow of traffic onto the freeway facility becomes more consistent and smooth.

The results of implementing the ramp metering are increased traffic volume and traffic speed, especially during peak hours; but also reduced pollution and fuel consumption*.

Telegra uses own algorithms for ramp metering developed by Telegra experts.

*Note: Number of studies revealed impact of ramp metering on traffic speed (up to 30%), travel time, fluency, safety but also pollution and fuel consumption (http://www.itsbenefits.its.dot.gov/ITS/benecost.nsf/SingleLink?OpenForm&Tax=Intelligent+Transportation+Systems+Freeway+Management+Ramp+Control+Ramp+Metering&Location=Benefit)

- Algorithmic Traffic Flow Incident and Congestion Detection

Different early incident detection protocols (MARZ, California, HIOCC …) can be implemented to avoid incident situations and reduce consequences in case of incidents. Data from the traffic counters and classifiers (which could be of any type from microwave to inductive loops) have been gathered and are being processed through algorithms to provide early incident information or information on traffic levels.

Incident detection is based on the principle that an incident is likely to cause a significant increase in upstream occupancy while simultaneously reducing occupancy downstream.

- Travel Time Prediction

Travel time prediction is a subsystem in urban traffic management that is responsible for predicting travel times of predefined routes. Collected current and past data from detectors placed on road and information (weather, incidents, traffic lights…) from other subsystems is used as an input for simulation and prediction. Upon it predicted travel times are calculated and presented in the GUI and/or public web page.

Predicted travel times can also be communicated to drivers through various messages on LED displays (DMS). The messages might include alternative route, travel times, etc.

- Public Information Web Service - Traffic & Travel Information System

Traffic & Voyage Information System (TVIS) enables public access to traffic information over the Internet. Information is displayed on internet browser in real time and includes a subset of information from the traffic control system, like traffic density by area, warnings, weather data and other.

The data provided is grouped in two categories: public data and protected data. Public data like traffic density, current DMS messages, meteorological data, CCTV stream or images, travel warnings (e.g. road work) are available to the public via the Internet.

More detailed data including capability to administer the web page by adding and editing information (info categories, content, type, level of warning etc.) is reserved for authorized personnel.

- Automatic Vehicle Location

Automatic Vehicle Location (AVL) subsystem's main purpose is visualization of selected vehicle categories locations in traffic network obtained with the use of on-board transmitters of vehicle GPS data.

Vehicle positions are visualized in the representation of traffic network in GUI front-end (GIS or “logical” view)…

Vehicle position is represented in GUI using GIS data, which enables precise representation of vehicle positions on screen and direction of the vehicle movement.

Integrated tools for the system should include configurable alarms (vehicle out of designated road, or vehicle stopped for more than x minutes etc.), comprehensive driver and vehicle management tool, etc.

Being integrated in topXview™, AVL enables quick automatic connection between incident location and closest road patrol vehicle (or police, emergency, etc.), thus reducing incident reaction time to absolute minimum.

- Centre to Centre (C2C) Communication & Coordination

Today’s traffic is dynamic living organism and it’s management often cannot be limited to isolated operation by single but need to be harmonized on larger scale that could include even several countries.

Center to center (C2C) communication and coordination is communication between systems involved in information exchange in real-time transportation management. Simplified, two traffic management centers exchange real-time traffic data, which allows coordination beyond center's geographic boundaries, thus enabling traffic rerouting.

Most widely used C2C standards are

  • NTCIP 2306 that specifies communication interfaces encoded in the Extensible Markup Language (XML) between a center and an external center
  • European based DATEX II (CEN TS 16157),

both of which are supported by Telegra.

- Maintenance Management

Modern Traffic Management Systems are full of technology and as such need to be maintained properly. To help doing it Integrated Maintenance Management System (IMMS) provides asset and maintenance activities records. It is designed to help Maintenance Program supervisors and managers manage all maintenance resources efficiently and effectively.

Integrated Maintenance Management System enables supervisors to record, schedule, and track progress on maintenance work; provides reports and management information useful in maintenance quality measuring.

TAILOR THE PLATFORM

- Design Own System

In order to take control of the system extensions, one must have the right tools for it. A design tool, integrated in the system, allowing the user to, easily and intuitively, create custom extensions of the existing system. The extensions can range from editing existing equipment, to create own new road sections, etc.

Designer module should be a powerful tool that enables users to update the system with new traffic routes, sections and individual objects, or adjust the existing ones to their needs. The large library of existing and already integrated devices enables easy selection of appropriate views and detailed configurations.

- Design Own Processes

Using the system and its automated procedures (aka scenarios) means inevitably one will want to change things from time to time, to add reaction of the system to that sign, half-a-mile before a tunnel, or to change automatic message to be displayed in case of fire. They might like to introduce temporary closure of exit from the highway and existing procedures are senseless now. The only solution is to have a tool to design own processes.

Operator should choose any of the existing scenarios for editing, or add new ones on the fly. The scenarios are displayed in a graphical diagram form, making their editing a very easy and intuitive drag and drop task.

- Design Own Reports and Graphs

Reports and graphs are typical example of “if-I-would-only-be-able-to” syndrome. Everybody needs another column, new filter or query. It is impossible to foresee all of the future needs of various system users or third parties. The only way to accommodate this need is to have a tool that enables report and graph editing and creation.

Report  Designer  enables  the  user to independently edit the existing, or create new reports and graphs by using any of the data stored in the database. Wizard-like process guides the user through a self-explanatory graphical interface, step by step.