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If you’ve driven through the intersection of East Alexander Street and Walden Woods Drive lately, you may have noticed what appear to be video cameras mounted on the traffic light arms. Those “cameras” are actually thermal imaging sensors that detect the presence of vehicles. These sensors were purchased using federal grant money and are part of a traffic efficiency study being performed by the City of Plant City’s Traffic Division. These thermal imaging traffic sensors have been installed at select intersections around the city.
Unlike video cameras, traffic detection sensors use thermal imaging technology to detect the presence of motor vehicles at or approaching intersections. The sensors then translate the captured data into algorithms, which tell the light to change. The sensors do not record video and do not take photos.
The City has traditionally used induction loops installed in the roadway to manage traffic lights, but thermal imaging sensors may become the future of traffic control. Induction loops are buried or cut into the pavement and are designed to sense the magnetic presence of a car that has pulled up to a red light, signaling the traffic lights to change. The biggest problem with induction loops is that alterations to an intersection often render the loops unusable, which requires the city to cut into the pavement to install a new loop.
Thermal imaging sensors can be installed in a matter of hours, which means fewer delays for the motoring public. Thermal sensors can also be installed at intersections where the installation of induction loops is impractical. The sensors are also completely autonomous and operate with no human interaction. If a problem develops with the unit, it sends an alarm to the City’s Traffic Operations Division, who can promptly respond and address any malfunctions.
If the pilot program is successful, motorists may begin seeing more of these devices installed throughout Plant City. In addition to the intersection of East Alexander Street and Walden Woods Drive, the City is also testing traffic imaging sensors at the intersections of West Baker Street //Franklin Street, as well as James L. Redman Parkway//East Park Road.