TrafficCOM opens up traffic counting to everyone
By Ben Coxworth
March 18, 2013
Thanks to advances in technology, we now pretty much take it for granted that if we wanted to, we could start up our own digital publication, produce and distribute our own documentary, or fabricate our own small plastic items. One area that has yet to really become democratized, however, is traffic counting. Perhaps that’s not way up there on your personal list of things that you wish you could do for yourself ... but then again, you’re probably not part of the target market for TrafficCOM.
Ordinarily, traffic counting – the recording of how many vehicles pass over a certain stretch of road within a given time – is performed by city workers using relatively expensive devices. Depending on where you live, that data might not be available to the public, or may not be up to date for the street in which you’re interested. That’s where TrafficCOM comes into the picture.
The low(er)-cost device consists of a pressure-sensitive hose, linked to an Arduino computer and an LED numerical display contained within a weather-resistant clear plastic housing. To use it, you start by draping the hose across the road, securing it with heavy-duty tape, then letting cars and bicycles run over it. Every set of two axles is recorded as one vehicle.
After 12 to 24 hours, the device is retrieved and hooked up to a computer via a USB cable. Users then upload their data to the TrafficCOM website, where it’s combined with other users’ data to create a mosaic of citizen-recorded traffic data for the area.
So, who would have a use for it? The designers suggest that users might include advocacy groups investigating transportation issues; community members who want localized, current numbers on the amount and speed of traffic in their neighborhood; business owners wanting to make decisions regarding parking and access; and, municipal agencies that simply want a cheaper alternative to their current devices.
Several versions of TrafficCOM have already been created and put to use in cities such as San Francisco, New York, Moscow and Santiago, Chile. The device is currently in its fifth iteration, and its designers have turned to Kickstarter to fund the production of a new-and-improved sixth version. Some of those improvements will include a more durable aluminum body, an attached locking loop to lessen the chances of it being stolen (good idea), and an integrated lithium-polymer rechargeable battery that should allow for 36 to 72 hours of use per charge.
A pledge of US$200 will get you one, when and if the funding goal is met. More information on the thinking behind the device is available in the pitch video below.