City unveils a unique “in-the-box” detection scheme that uses Wavetronix radar to ensure that both vehicles and bicycles pass safely through intersections.

January 28, 2014

PROVO, UT—Wavetronix, the worldwide market leader in radar traffic detection and monitoring, is pleased to announce a first-of-its-kind installation of SmartSensor Matrix in the city of Tustin, California. The Tustin system uses Wavetronix radar in a unique “in-the-box” detection scheme designed specifically to ensure that bicyclists can safely pass through the intersection before the light changes. The new intersection system is part of a major road project that was unveiled in Tustin on November 23, 2013.

The Tustin Ranch Road Extension project, which connects Interstate 5 with Von Karman Avenue in nearby Irvine, has been in the works since the 1970s and is eagerly anticipated by residents, according to Tustin Mayor Al Murray.

“It’s been over 30 years in development. It’s been a labor of love,” Murray said. “I see it as a road to prosperity and something that’s going to be vital for mobility throughout Orange County.” 

As part of the project, the city of Tustin is incorporating technology that specifically addresses the safety of cyclists. Tustin Deputy Director of Public Works Ken Nishikawa said making Tustin bicycle-friendly is one of the city’s top goals when looking at improving infrastructure. 

“There are a lot of cyclist enthusiasts in Orange County,” Nishikawa said. “(We) plan for bicycle enthusiasts to be able to safely go on the roadways. We’re looking forward to seeing them out here for sure.” 

SmartSensor Matrix is able to detect bicycles and register them as part of traffic, eliminating the problem that many cyclists face at actuated traffic signals: traffic cameras often cannot detect bicycles; and inductive loops require bicycles be positioned in a specific location above the loop for accurate detection. Matrix, which generates 16 separate radar beams, can detect bicycles in user-defined zones anywhere in its 90-degree, 140-foot field of view. As a result, bicycles are treated like any other vehicle when it comes to activating signals.

Project consultants Hartzog & Crabill tested SmartSensor Matrix to evaluate its ability to detect bicycles as well as other vehicles. Working with Wavetronix, who manufactures the sensor, and SummitCrest, Wavetronix’ local authorized channel partner, Hartzog & Crabill was able to create an “in-the-box” detection configuration. 

According to Bill Taylor, Regional Sales Manager for SummitCrest, Matrix detects traffic at the stop bar, but the Tustin project also uses the sensor to track vehicles and bicycles through the intersection, or inside “the box.” 

“The purpose of that was not only to pick up cars and cyclists at the stop bar as they enter into the area but to be able to pick them up as they enter the intersection,” Taylor said. “This allows the system to hold the green longer to get them through the intersection. So it makes it safer for the cyclists.”

Like all Wavetronix sensors, Matrix is easy to install and requires little to no maintenance. Unlike loops, Matrix installs above the ground with minimal traffic disruption; unlike cameras, Matrix works in all weather and lighting scenarios.

Starting in 2008, California traffic engineers have been under the instruction of California Vehicle Code Section 21450.5, which states that traffic-actuated signals should be able to detect “lawful bicycle or motorcycle traffic on the roadway,” though cities and counties are not required to follow this until the California Department of Transportation establishes “uniform standards, specifications and guidelines for the detection of bicycles and motorcycles.” 

Taylor said currently SmartSensor Matrix is the only form of traffic detection on the market that can accurately and consistently sense bicycles. This represents a unique opportunity for traffic engineers to comply with these directives.

The SmartSensor Matrix “in-the-box” detection configuration is initially being rolled out at four intersections. The newly completed Tustin Ranch Road and the Matrix “in-the-box” detection configuration were unveiled to the public at a ribbon-cutting ceremony on Saturday, November 23.