Intelligent Roadway Information System

Vehicle Detection Systems

There are several types of vehicle detection systems (VDS). The earliest of these is the inductive loop, which is a wire looped under the road surface. Some systems use radar mounted on the side of the road. Video detection uses a camera and computer vision software. Collectively, these systems are simply called detectors.


To create a detector, first select the r_node at the proper location. Then select the Detectors tab for that r_node. Enter the detector Name and press the Create button.

After selecting a detector in the r_node detector table, its properties, such as lane type and lane # can be changed. Lanes are numbered from right-to-left, starting with the right lane as 1. A label will be created from this information, including abbreviations of the roads associated with the r_node.

The field length of a detector determines how density and speed are estimated from counts and occupancy. It is in units of feet.

If a detector is no longer used, it can be marked abandoned.

Lane Type

Lane Type Description
Mainline Freeway mainline
Auxiliary Mainline auxiliary (ends within a mile)
CD Lane Collector / Distributor
Reversible Reversible mainline
Merge Freeway on-ramp (counts all merging traffic)
Queue Ramp metering queue
Exit Freeway exit-ramp
Bypass Ramp meter bypass
Passage Ramp meter passage
Velocity Mainine speed loop
Omnibus Bus only
Green Ramp meter displayed green count
Wrong Way Exit-ramp wrong way detector
HOV High occupancy vehicles only
HOT High occupancy or tolling only
Shoulder Mainline shoulder
Parking Parking space presence detector


It is possible to move a detector to another r_node. Select the target r_node and enter the detector Name. The current label for that detector will appear on the right. To move it to the current r_node, press the Transfer button.

Traffic Data

Most detectors sample traffic data in fixed time intervals and put it into bins. IRIS can store these types of binned traffic data:

Sample Type Description Code Sample Size
Vehicle Count Count of vehicles detected v 8 bits
Motorcycle Count Count of vehicles up to 7 feet vmc 8 bits
Small Count Count of vehicles between 7 and 20 feet vs 8 bits
Medium Count Count of vehicles between 20 and 43 feet vm 8 bits
Large Count Number of vehicles 43 feet or longer vl 8 bits
Occupancy Percent occupancy count (0 to 100.00) op 16 bits
Scans Scan occupancy count (0 to 1800) c 16 bits
Speed Average speed (mph) of detected vehicles s 8 bits

Instead of binning, some detectors can record a vehicle log, with information about each detected vehicle, such as headway and speed.

Every 30 seconds, an XML file is generated containing the most recent sample data from all defined detectors. The file is called det_sample.xml.gz, and it is written to the XML output directory.

Detector Protocols

IRIS supports several different protocols for communicating with vehicle detection systems. The protocol used depends on the comm link of the controller to which it is assigned. The following table summarizes features of each protocol.

Protocol Binning Traffic Data
NTCIP 0-255 seconds Count, Occupancy
MnDOT-170 30 seconds Count, Scans
SS105 5 seconds to 1 month Count, Occupancy, Speed, Classification
SS125 5 seconds to 1 month Count, Occupancy, Speed, Classification
G4 5 seconds to 1 hour Count, Occupancy, Speed, Classification
Canoga N/A vehicle logging Timestamp, Speed (double loops)
DR-500 30-300? seconds Speed
DXM N/A (presence) Magnetic Field

For protocols which allow the binning intereval to be adjusted, it will be set to the poll period of the comm link.

Auto Fail

Traffic data is continuously checked for five common failure conditions. When one of these first occurs and every hour that it persists, an event is logged in the detector_event database table. The detector_auto_fail_view can be used to check recent events.

If the detector_auto_fail_enable system attribute is true, the auto fail flag for each detector will be set and cleared automatically whenever these conditions change.

No Hits

This failure condition occurs if no vehicles are counted for a duration determined by the lane type. It clears immediately when a vehicle is counted.

Lane Types Duration
Mainline, CD Lane, Velocity 4 hours
Exit, Wrong Way, HOV 8 hours
Queue, Passage, Merge 12 hours
Auxiliary 24 hours
Bypass, Green, Omnibus, HOT, Reversible, Shoulder 72 hours
Parking 2 weeks


If a detector reports an unreasonably high count of 38 vehicles or more in a 30 second period, this condition will be triggered. It will be cleared if 24 hours pass with all counts below that threshold.

Locked On

This condition occurs if the detector reports 100% occupancy for a duration determined by lane type. It is also sustained if the occupancy drops to zero with no intervening values. The condition will be cleared after 24 hours of good occupancy data.

Lane Type Duration
Mainline, Auxiliary, CD Lane, Reversible, Velocity, HOV, HOT, Shoulder 2 minutes
Merge, Queue, Exit, Bypass, Passage, Omnibus, Green, Wrong Way 30 minutes
Parking 2 weeks

No Change

If occupancy is greater than zero and does not change for 24 hours, this condition will be triggered. It will clear immediately if the occupancy changes.

Occ Spike

A spike timer is kept for each detector. For every 25% change in occupancy between two consecutive data samples, 30 seconds are added to the timer. If its value ever exceeds 60 seconds, the condidtion is triggered. After every poll, 30 seconds are removed from the timer. The condition will be cleared after 24 hours of no spikes.

Force Fail

If a detector has a fault which is not handled automatically, it can be force failed. This flag is only set manually, so it must be cleared once the failure is corrected.

Fake Detectors

When a detector is failed (auto fail or force fail), its data will not be used for travel time, ramp metering, etc. In that case, fake detection can be used — this field can contain one or more other detector names, separated by spaces. The average density or speed of those detectors (which are not also failed) will be used instead.

Traffic Data Archiving

Sample data is archived only if the sample_archive_enable system attribute is true. Files are stored in /var/lib/iris/traffic, in a directory with the district name. Within that directory a new subdirectory is created for each year, with a 4-digit name (1994-9999).

As data is collected, a new subdirectory is created every day — the name is 8-digits: year 1994-9999, month 01-12 and day-of-month 01-31. At 10 PM, all traffic data from the previous day is moved into a single ZIP file with the 8-digit base name and a .traffic extension.

Binned Data

A binned sample file consists of some number of periods of equal duration. The first period begins (and the last period ends) at midnight. The binning interval determines the number of samples collected per day — a shorter interval results in more samples. If the period is longer than 30 seconds, the samples are allocated evenly into 30-second bins for storage.

Period Binning Interval Samples Stored Bins
5 5 seconds 17280 5 seconds
6 6 seconds 14400 6 seconds
10 10 seconds 8640 10 seconds
15 15 seconds 5760 15 seconds
20 20 seconds 4320 20 seconds
30 30 seconds 2880 30 seconds
60 60 seconds 1440 30 seconds
90 90 seconds 960 30 seconds
120 2 minutes 720 30 seconds
240 4 minutes 360 30 seconds
300 5 minutes 288 30 seconds
600 10 minutes 144 30 seconds
900 15 minutes 96 30 seconds
1200 20 minutes 72 30 seconds
1800 30 minutes 48 30 seconds
3600 60 minutes 24 30 seconds
7200 2 hours 12 30 seconds
14400 4 hours 6 30 seconds
28800 8 hours 3 30 seconds
43200 12 hours 2 30 seconds
86400 24 hours 1 30 seconds

For each detector, a binned sample file is created for each traffic data sample type. The base file name is the detector name. The extension is the traffic data code followed by the period (in seconds). For example, 60-second vehicle count samples collected from detector 100 would be stored in a file called 100.v60, containing 2880 bins.

Each data sample is either an 8- or 16-bit signed integer, depending on the sample type. 16-bit samples are in high-byte first order. A negative value (-1) indicates a missing sample. Any data outside the valid ranges should be considered bad.

Vehicle Logging

The .vlog format is a comma-separated text log with one line for each vehicle detected. Each line ends with a newline \n (ASCII 0x0A). If present, duration, headway, and speed are positive integer values. Missing duration or headway values are represented by a ? character. A gap in sampling data is represented by * on a line by itself.

Column Name Description
1 Duration Number of milliseconds the vehicle occupied the detector
2 Headway Number of milliseconds bewteen vehicle start times
3 Time stamp 24-hour HH:MM:SS format (may be omitted if headway is valid)
4 Speed Speed in miles per hour (if available)

Example Log

Interpreting example .vlog data for 11 vehicles:

Log Data Duration Headway Time Speed
296,9930,17:49:36 296 9930 17:49:36 ?
231,14069 231 14069 17:49:50 ?
240,453,,45 240 453 17:49:50 45
296,23510,,53 296 23510 17:50:14 53
259,1321 259 1321 17:50:15 ?
?,? ? ? ? ?
249,? 249 ? 17:50:24 ?
323,4638,17:50:28 323 4638 17:50:28 ?
258,5967 258 5967 17:50:33 ?
111,1542 111 1542 17:50:35 ?
304,12029 304 12029 17:50:47 ?

Traffic Layer

The IRIS client user interface includes a traffic map layer which is created automatically from the road topology. By default, this layer uses traffic density to determine the color of each segment. Other themes are available for speed and flow. The Legend menu at the top of the map can be used to view the thresholds used for each color in a theme.

Every 30 seconds, the client will make an HTTP request for the current traffic data. The URL to locate that file is declared as a property in the /etc/iris/ file (on the IRIS server). The property is tdxml.detector.url, and it should point to the det_sample.xml.gz XML file, as made available by apache on the IRIS server.

The appearance of the traffic map layer changes depending on the current zoom level. If the zoom level is below 10, the layer will not be visible. At zoom levels 10 through 13, the layer will display segments as aggregate of all detectors in each mainline station. At zoom level 14 or above, each mainline detector will be displayed as a separate segment.

The maximum distance between adjacent stations to draw segments on the map is specified by the map_segment_max_meters system attribute. It is also the maximum downstream distance for associating station data with a segment.