by Mike Lorenzo
Traffic Signal Shop
Department of Public Works
They’re on most of the County’s traffic lights – little cameras that keep you in their sight while you wait for the light to change. Some people think they’re speed cameras or red-light cameras or maybe more police surveillance hardware. The truth is a little more prosaic and a lot more benign. The cameras send video feed to a computer which counts backed-up cars and decides whether to give a green light to waiting cars. That’s all.
The video goes directly to a control box on the ground where it interfaces with a computer program. The program analyzes the image by changes in light patterns moving across the detection zone (otherwise known as the backed-up-traffic-you’re-sitting-in).
These traffic cameras can’t read your license plate or distinguish a Ford Pinto from a water buffalo. But they can tell how congested the traffic is and then do something about it. The system has no memory; the resolution is low and the cameras are all stuck in a permanently-fixed position – with no sweep or zoom. You don’t have to worry about these eyes. It’s not Big Brother.