Automatic traffic counters are a discreet, unintrusive and durable method of collecting accurate data on traffic flows. Automated systems can achieve results as efficiently on busy highways as they can on the quietest street. And, by choosing to automate your traffic surveying processes, you will not only gain accuracy and save worker-hours, but you can make use of any number of additional features, too.
Why choose an automatic traffic counter?
Traffic counters have a number of practical applications. These can vary from the collection of data to form reports and aid planning, to analysing bottlenecks, wear, or estimated lifespans of sections of highway.
The advantage of an automated system is that it requires little in the way of supervision or maintenance. These are intelligent transportation systems which can be installed once and then left for days – or even weeks. During this time the system will collect traffic data 24 hours a day, with no need for additional oversight.
Councils and local authorities, development enterprises, and even private individuals rely on traffic counters to aid in decision-making processes.
What are the limitations of an automated traffic counting system?
In general terms, an automatic traffic counter will be capable of achieving the same results as a manual traffic survey.
However, some of the context detail of a traffic survey may be lost when using automatic counters. Considerations such as weather, types of traffic (distinctions between civilian and emergency vehicles, for example), road conditions and carriageway access (roadworks) cannot be collected using an automated system. However, as a way to harvest a large volume of traffic flow data, an automated system is more consistent, more cost-efficient, and more accurate than any manual survey.
Key features and additional functionality
A typical traffic counting system will consist of a recording device which is attached to two pneumatic sensors. Enclosed in durable rubber tubing, these pneumatic sensors span the width of the road or motorway, and are set some distant apart, at either end of the area of study. Each sensor is triggered as a vehicle passes over it, and is thereby able to record when every individual vehicle enters and exits the area of study. The data collected in this way has many useful applications.
Advanced systems also provide a number of additional features, as detailed below.
Accurate and Consistent results
When accuracy is essential, an automatic traffic counter is the only viable solution. Automated counters are the most precise means of collecting vehicle and traffic flow data. In areas of high volume traffic, conducting a manual survey will mean sacrificing some level of precision. But an automatic counter performs just as well, regardless of the speed or volume of traffic.
Savings and Efficiency
Equally, a manual count becomes disproportionately expensive when conducted on quieter stretches of road. In low-traffic regions, an automated system can be installed once, and then left unattended for the duration of the study. Automation, therefore, allows businesses and authorities to allocate their remaining resources more efficiently.
Improved safety and all-weather performance
Safety is a paramount concern for any organisation conducting road traffic surveys. Automatic counters reduce the number of personnel required at roadside, and reduce the risk of accident and injury.
Safety risks increase during adverse weather conditions. But even when workers are in a position of safety, poor conditions can have a negative impact on results: lowering visibility and affecting the accuracy of a manual count. Automated systems tackle both of these problems, performing consistently in all climates and conditions, both night and day.
Individual vehicle data
Some intelligent transportation systems can record the weights of vehicles which enter the study area.
Certain road surfaces have a maximum weight allowance. Vehicle weights can, therefore, be important when assessing road surface durability, or when testing the safety conditions of a stretch of highway. This is a common factor along areas of highway which approach or cross over a bridge.
Vehicle mass is a data set which manual surveys are unable to capture with any degree of accuracy, meaning that vehicle weight data is just one of the unique features of an advanced traffic counter.
Advanced traffic counting systems are capable of assessing individual vehicle speeds. A system that is used to collate traffic speed data can be deployed for a number of reasons. It may provide information that helps to assess how a road is used, potential accident hotspots, or it may even be installed as a less visible alternative to traditional speed cameras.