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Student Team Turns Existing Infrastructure into Smart, Low-Cost Traffic Sensors

Aug. 20, 2021
The team, from the University of Massachusetts-Lowell, won the 2021 Transportation Technology Tournament for their invention.

With an interdisciplinary approach to turn existing traffic cameras into smart sensors using artificial intelligence, the student team from the University of Massachusetts-Lowell (UMass-Lowell) took top honors at the 2021 Transportation Technology Tournament. 

The annual Transportation Technology Tournament challenges student teams to solve real-world transportation problems by leveraging existing infrastructure and maximizing the use of operations and Intelligent Transportations Systems (ITS) strategies. The tournament – a partnership of the U.S. Department of Transportation’s ITS Joint Program Office Professional Capacity Building Program (ITS JPO PCB) and the National Operations Center of Excellence (NOCoE) – seeks to build on transportation curriculums by teaching problem solving, communications, and team building skills with students with a variety of educational backgrounds.

The winning team from UMass-Lowell featured students from both civil engineering and computer science programs who proposed equipping existing traffic video cameras with automated data collection and incident detection features; exemplifying how low-cost solutions can easily retrofit legacy ITS equipment to maximize both service life and benefits.

Finalists delivered a 10-minute presentation to the panel of judges from the public and private sectors and academia. Judges ask detailed and pointed questions to challenge the teams on their solution’s cost, lifecycle benefits, maintenance, and overall feasibility. The two other finalist teams this year were from the University of Memphis, which tackled problems featuring safety solutions for a mountain pass and truck parking.

“We continue to see our student teams develop multimodal solutions to improve the safety of the traveling public and maximize the use of emerging technologies,”  said Adam Hopps, NOCoE’s interim managing director. “The trainings and education provided by the ITS JPO PCB program equip our student participants to tackle these challenges and propose solutions that are often ready for implementation.”

NOCoE noted the 2021 finals were a standalone virtual event held during USDOT’s ITS JPO T3 webinar series. In 2022, NOCoE and the USDOT’s ITS JPO PCB hope to return to holding the finals in person at the Institute of Transportation Engineers (ITE) Annual Meeting as previously done in 2018 and 2019.

The winning presentation can be found here.

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