DigiFlec uses Velodyne Lidar sensors to start a new way of traffic monitoring

The Scottish village of Thornhill is situated on the busy A84 route to the Trossachs National Park, a popular Scottish tourist destination. This means that a lot of tourist traffic, along with haulage, commuter and agricultural vehicles, pass through the village in high volumes on their way to the picturesque glens and lochs. The amount of traffic is sufficient that Stirling Council are interested in analysis of how the road is used, with the help of DigiFlec and Velodyne Lidar sensors. The system installed in Thornhill records the types of vehicles and their speed as they pass through the main junction in the village, providing value-added statistics.

DigiFlec and Velodyne Lidar case study in Thornhill, Scotland

To enjoy the breathtaking views of the Trossachs National Park, thousands of people travel by car from Glasgow, Edinburgh or other places. And many of them pass through the rural communities near Stirling, Scotland. The residents of Thornhill wanted to know how the through traffic changes throughout the year so they decided to install a new technology provided by DigiFlec and Velodyne Lidar. A network of rural communities near Stirling are now using lidar as part of an innovative project that will deliver environmental, social and economic benefits for local people and further afield.

Lidar sensing equipment is typically associated with industrial processes and robotics, but deployment of surround-view lidar for traffic monitoring is also serving the rural community in Scotland. The project was supported by LEADER funding, which encourages rural communities to engage in the development of their local area.  A number of rural communities concerned about local air quality linked together to create The Forth Valley and Lomond Leader Smart Village Network. This is a citizen-led network of smart sensors that measure a range of environmental conditions across the region with a focus on air quality. To get a better picture of traffic conditions, DigiFlec installed Velodyne’s Puck lidar sensor overlooking a busy intersection in Thornhill.

DigiFlec and Velodyne Lidar's traffic management system installed in the village of Thornhill, Scotland

Thornhill is on the heavily trafficked main A84 route to the Trossachs and is used frequently by haulage, commuter, tourist and agricultural vehicles.  The main focus of the Smart Village Network is to measure particulate matter, the predominant pollutant in the area that mostly comes from vehicle exhaust. They want to understand how pollution forms, moves and disperses, and data about traffic will add a new level of understanding to the air quality data. The system counts and categorizes vehicles. Cross-referencing this data with the air quality and weather data will help increase understanding of how these factors are interlinked.

Map of Scotland showing the location of Thornhill

Head of the project Jim Mills says “the data gathered is interesting, with the volume of traffic being surprising to many residents. We can learn a lot from this [data].” In January 2022, a total of 75,104 vehicles passed through the village, divided into three broad categories of ‘buses and trucks,’ ‘vans’ and ‘cars’.  It is also interesting to understand ‘active travel’ in the area, learning how the numbers of pedestrians and cyclists change in relation to the weather. This is made possible by lidar perception software, which enables accurate analysis of observed objects and identifies and categorizes objects via integrated artificial intelligence.

Photos of the village of Thornhill in Scotland where the DigiFlec and Velodyne Lidar traffic management system is installed as part of LEADER

A key feature of the project is that the data gathered is ‘openly and freely available to all, in near real time with good accuracy,’ and the intention is that it can be used by individual community members and the community as a whole to make informed decisions.  Stirling Council emphasizes the potential usefulness of the data for managing road maintenance and upgrades. “We are confident that the installation and associated inferences will enable us to improve traffic flow and thus the quality of life for residents,” says Mills.

Impressions and data output insights of the project:

First set of data output from the DigiFlec and Velodyne Lidar traffic tracking system in Thornhill, Scotland

  • Data outputs are presented on a webpage, which shows the vehicle count for the last hour, the total vehicles in each category for the last ninety days and the speed of the vehicles. A visualization of the hourly vehicle counts over the last ninety days (bottom right) shows clearly that there was in increase in traffic in September.

Second set of data output from the DigiFlec and Velodyne Lidar traffic tracking system in Thornhill, Scotland

  • The top left graph shows the number of vehicles by their length, which is particularly valuable information when considering traffic flow into areas with narrower, or even single-track, roads. Other graphs show which road the vehicles are travelling on, either the B822 or the A873, and direction of travel, the categories of vehicle on a pie chart and how vehicle speed varies depending on time.

About DigiFlec

DigiFlec was founded in March 2020 by Steven Gillan and is based in Fife, Scotland, offering lidar scanning and software solutions to help companies better manage their assets and automate processes. DigiFlec believes that accurate, reliable data is vital to good decision-making which makes best use of the available resources. Visit DigiFlec at www.digiflec.com, or email [email protected] Follow DigiFlec on Twitter at www.twitter.com/digiflec.

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