You are likely reading this blog because your community leaders installed GRIDSMART® intelligent traffic technology in your neighborhood. My name is Bill Malkes, and since I am a GRIDSMART co-founder, it is fair to say my views have traces of partiality in them. That does not, however, mean what I say is wrong.
Your leaders made a wise decision, both for you and for your community’s traffic funds. Let me walk back and explain, starting with the benefits you’ll enjoy from this unique looking bell shaped camera living above your streets:
- GRIDSMART saves your community money.
- It costs less to install than other traffic products.
- It is significantly less costly to maintain.
- It costs only 30 minutes to learn.
- GRIDSMART has safety features other products do not.
- It is the only traffic solution that sees the center of the intersection where the action takes place.
- It is the only solution delivering important traffic data without guessing.
- GRIDSMART protects privacy. While it can see your vehicles, it cannot see you or read your license plate.
Money: Your community uses something called detection to determine when traffic lights should be green or red. Detection alerts the traffic system when vehicles are ready to go through the intersection. Until the 1990s, detection was a piece of metal, called a loop, that was cut into the pavement. Loops do work, but they require cutting 8, 10, 12 or more loops at every intersection to get the job done. Loops are also cut to count vehicles on our freeways.
According to the Federal Highway Administration (FHA), loops break on average of 25% every year. Fixing loops costs money, but not fixing them makes for dangerous roads. And when the traffic system cannot detect your presence, it takes a long time to get a green light. When this happens, some will run the red light.
Quite frankly, loops are a pain. Just think about blocking lanes, cutting up the road and replacing the loops several times each year. Now imagine doing this at every single intersection or stretch of highway.
In the 1990s, traffic cameras became an above ground alternative to loops. The difficulty is that communities have to install four or more cameras, with two wires per camera, at each intersection. Each camera is aimed at traffic. Each camera lens has to be focused. And each camera has to be cleaned two or more times each year.
GRIDSMART requires only one wire to connect a single bell shaped camera, and the camera never needs to be aimed or focused. With its unique fisheye lens, the GRIDSMART camera can see horizon to horizon, including the area directly beneath it. We recommended cleaning the GRIDSMART lens once a year.
The eight or more wires required by most camera products must be threaded through underground tubes beneath your roads. Compare this to a single wire for GRIDSMART. Imagine threading a wire through a 10 year old pipe underneath 5,7 or more lanes. Now imagine repeating the process a dozen or more times! City engineers close traffic lanes to clean camera lenses. Multiply that times the number of cameras at the intersection and, well, you get the picture.
Think about the time and money saved by installing GRIDSMART compared to the other products. Think about the time and money saved by cleaning one lens once a year, compared to four or more times per year. Think about the time and money saved by not having to aim or focus multiple cameras.
Your traffic department has a lot to do and lot to think about, which is why we designed GRIDSMART to be learned in 30 minutes or less. At GRIDSMART, we believe the system should work for you, not the other way around.
GRIDSMART lets your traffic professionals use their smarts to help you get around safely and more efficiently – not babysit other products. GRIDSMART will even send them an email if for some reason it cannot see one of the lanes – after invoking safety protocols, of course.
Safety: By definition, an intersection is a place where roads cross. Loops, even when they work, cannot see anything because they are 6” below the pavement. Other traffic cameras may be good enough to see approaching traffic, but they fail to see where that traffic is going, and they certainly do not see where vehicles cross paths.
GRIDSMART empowers your city with the technology to see where the activity is. It provides the ability to see what may be causing accidents. It is the only system to accurately measure U-Turns and helps to understand why people need to make U-Turns when they do. It can see people or bikes in the intersection when the lights change to red, which can be very dangerous. GRIDSMART helps your traffic professionals make the roads safer for you.
Traffic counts are very important to your community. FHA studies recommend that counts should be collected every six months. The same studies show that, on average in the real world, count studies are only taken every seven years. More often than not, these count studies are only based on a few days’ worth of traffic and then extrapolated for a very long time. Would June the 17th look like every other day on your roads?
Why are counts important? Because they provide information used by your traffic professionals to make the timing of lights safer and more efficient. Traffic counts also give your community leaders the data they need to submit proposals and win federal funding. Accurate traffic counts give your community the ability to plan for growth and safety.
Many traffic departments depend on a number of inferior methods to collect counts: human counts, pressure hoses stretched across the road, cameras that guess where you are going based on where they first see you (remember, other cameras can only see things heading towards them), and even temporary cameras put up for a single day. GRIDSMART communities have accurate minute-by-minute counts every day of every year, and counts are proactively emailed to smart traffic professionals in your community.
GRIDSMART makes it easy for your traffic professionals to have all the information they need to put their expertise to work for you.
Privacy: We are all concerned about balancing privacy with safety in today’s world. GRIDSMART cameras do not read license plates; they couldn’t even if we wanted them too. Our unique ability to see horizon to horizon makes it impossible to focus on license plate numbers. GRIDSMART can not see inside your vehicle. Once again, the magic of the fisheye lens lets the camera see the entire intersection, including the center of the intersection, but it cannot see your face.
GRIDSMART does see accidents and other incidents that happen 360° around the camera. However, it sees just enough to show that something is wrong, but not enough to show your face (when you’re just hanging out and don’t think it is anyone’s business to know where you are). GRIDSMART moves and counts traffic efficiently and safely. It makes you safer, but it is not a law enforcement tool.
So that’s a little bit about why GRIDSMART is a wise choice for your community – the end that I promised to start with. Now, a nibble about the start of GRIDSMART and how we exemplify our pillars of Simplicity, Flexibility and Transparency in everything we do.
The Start: GRIDSMART co-founder James Sherrill and I were sick and tired of waiting at red lights for no reason. There had to be a better way, so we started thinking.
We were in Knoxville, Tennessee (we still are today). Five miles to our north is the Oak Ridge National Laboratory, where some of the smartest people in the world work. Twenty miles in all other directions house some of the most economically challenged rural areas in our country. We not only wanted to create a product that would “wow” an Oak Ridge scientist. We wanted to create something accessible to everyone. We believe that technology is never truly great unless everyone has access to it.
So everything we build is designed for simplicity. Every day, your traffic professionals have a lot on their plate, and this tool called GRIDSMART should work for them.
GRIDSMART has to be flexible. Other companies in our industry lock communities down with proprietary standards. We would rather you be happy with someone else’s product than be unhappy with ours. GRIDSMART is built so that if we are not doing the job, you can still use GRIDSMART with other products without constraint. You get GRIDSMART benefits without us. We believe that’s the right way to do business.
Finally, we took note that everyone, in all areas of the traffic industry, makes accuracy claims. Unfortunately, communities need to study these claims or hire someone to study them to see whether or not they are true. GRIDSMART ships with free tools that let traffic professionals easily understand how we are doing; not in a university, not in some kingdom, far, far away, but in your hometown.
GRIDSMART publishes a software “change log” on the internet (you can see it) that announces our bug fixes for the world to see. We don’t pretend problems don’t exist, because problems don’t get fixed that way.
GRIDSMART is built for the biggest and the smallest of communities. We understand that everyone needs cost effective performance. GRIDSMART solves real problems for real people. GRIDSMART was born of citizen problems solvers, not big company revenue producers.
Take a look this video (it only takes 60 seconds), and I think you will understand even more of who we are and why I think your traffic professional’s selection of GRIDSMART is the wise choice for your funds. https://vimeo.com/129251943