"Fog Mode" Improving On Traffic Cameras

By: Stephanie Diffin Email
By: Stephanie Diffin Email

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Wednesday, February 16, 2011

The fog makes even those with 20/20 vision strain to see, and this week, parts of Kansas are getting a first-hand look through it.

"I've seen it this bad before, but not lately," said Wichita driver Michael Waller.

"This was thick and wet. I thought it had rained, [so] it was pretty thick," said Kili Goudey.

Just as people have a hard time seeing through the haze, so do cameras. It's an issue for the traffic cameras that tell stoplights when to turn green or red.

"The problem becomes, when you get a lot of fog, and the cameras can't see anymore, they're looking at the intersection, they're blinded by the fog, so they don't know if there's traffic there anymore," said City of Wichita Assistant Traffic Engineer Brian Coon, PhD.

So the cameras turn to fog mode, changing lights based on a set timer. While engineers say it's not an ideal system, the technology is constantly improving, helping ease what in the past has been an extra problem in the fog.

"The sophistication with which the cameras go into fog mode is becoming more sophisticated," said Coon.

Now, there's also new equipment the city of Wichita has started installing that tracks how long each light at an intersection generally stays green during a certain time in the day or week. When it's foggy, the camera relies on that data to tell it when to change the light.

"The technology's always improving, and it will continue to improve," said Coon.

And just as engineers work to make sure drivers can get through foggy intersections in a timely manner, drivers work to get through those foggy intersections safely.

"I actually rolled down my window because I was listening for traffic," said Wichita driver Aaron Mattson.

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