U of T engineers use data and drones to provide a clear picture of Toronto traffic

A team at the University of Toronto has created an online platform that takes traffic data from highway cameras, TTC vehicles, drones, and open data sources to address blind spots in traffic monitoring and management.

Headed by Prof. Alberto Leon-Garcia, the Connected Vehicles and Smart Transportation (CVST) portal aims to use new technologies to address the gaps and generating insights that can inform traffic decision making, according to a U of T Engineering news post. These insights could even help inform a new generation of consumer traffic apps.


Leon-Garcia said traffic data is generated by many public and private organizations. For instance, TTC buses, BIXI bicycles, Google Maps, and Twitter’s traffic reports all provide usable data. CVST ties these data streams together – and even adds some new sources.

One of the innovative ways of gathering CVST data is a video-streaming drone soaring at 75 metres above the ground to provide a bird’s eye view of traffic. These drones, specially built by U of T aerospace engineers, would provide a live, high-definition video feed showing traffic in locations not served by cameras.

Ali Tizghadam, a senior research associate in Leon-Garcia’s lab, said drones are used to address gaps in traffic data. For instance, a major accident may not be caught by existing cameras, or an event like an ice storm could disable existing sensors. “What we want to move toward is a system of sensors on demand,” Tizghadam said.

CVST is currently available in beta as an interactive map with pylons indicating road closures and construction work, and TTC showing the real-time locations of buses.

CVST is also designed to accommodate future technologies like self-driving cars that may be able to directly tap into the system to determine the best route to take.

Leon-Garcia envisions CVST as contributing to what he calls a “Smart City” platform. “It’s about gathering data, understanding usage patterns, creating intelligence and leveraging that to modulate the flow of traffic in the city and to lead to efficient and sustainable use of resources,” he said.

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David Hamilton
David Hamiltonhttp://davidihamilton.com/
As a journalist, I delve into topics where technology and society collide. I’ve written for Canadian newspaper The National Post, and posted more than 3,000 articles on technology related to the Internet as a staff writer for trade publication the Web Host Industry Review. And I host and produce a podcast called Techish.

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