It’s True Big Brother is Watching You…

…and it turns out he’s a jovial traffic engineer named Bill Shao.

During his trip to Los Angeles a couple of months ago, StreetFilms’ Clarence Eckerson Jr. took a tour of Los Angeles’ Automated Traffic Surveillance and Control and was surprised to find it wasn’t nearly as boring as he thought and actually had some lessons for traffic controllers around the country.  In his own words,

First off, one of the things that makes ATSAC so unique is that its one
of the only traffic systems in the entire country that is publicly
owned.  ATSAC was started in 1984 to help move traffic around the
Coliseum during the Olympics; since then it has grown to over 3,000 of
L.A.’s 4,100 signalized intersections, some of them incredibly complex.
The technology is so advanced that even on its busiest days the control
room only requires a few people present to run it.

  • Would be neat to also know what kind of underlying software they are using. They seem proud to not be beholden to vendors, but is their own software freely available? Open Source? Free Software?

  • Let’s not forget what happens to all of that data! Off to the archives? Off to the academics? The open source code monkeys world-wide?

    Nope, none of the above. Here is what happens to some of the most valuable, expensive, real-time, real-world traffic data on the planet:

    ” The data beep and shine on screens in a state-of-the-art traffic control center that looks like something out of a science fiction movie. The information — Wilshire Boulevard jammed in Westwood, Broadway wide-open through downtown — is used to adjust the timing of traffic lights, easing the flow of vehicles through the city’s busy streets. The data are instantly placed on the Internet, available to commuters and traffic reporters.

    But although the sensors and computers collect massive amounts of data about traffic patterns and congestion, they do little to help engineers plan for the city’s growing transportation needs — or determine how development is affecting traffic.

    That’s because the city does not save the information for more than a few days, using it only to direct traffic in real time by adjusting the speed at which lights turn from green to amber to red.

    Because the information is discarded, it cannot be used to determine over time where traffic is increasing — or by how much.”

    http://articles.latimes.com/2007/oct/01/local/me-traffic1

  • Chris Loos

    Collecting the data is most of the battle. All they need to archive everything is a very large, very fast hard drive.

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