Office for Technology Commercialization

Rural Intersection Traffic Safety

Technology #z04075

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Intersection Traffic Control TechnologyRural Traffic Control Intersection RadarRural Intersection Traffic Safety System
Max Donath, PhD
Professor, Mechanical Engineering, Director of Intelligent Transportation Systems Institute
External Link (
Craig Shankwitz
Former Director, Intelligent Vehicles Laboratory
External Link (
Managed By
Andrew Morrow
Technology Licensing Officer
Patent Protection
US Patent 7,209,051
Files and Attachments
Z04075 Term Sheet [PDF]

Rural Traffic Control

The intersection traffic control system offers intersection decision support in rural areas by providing the safety benefits of a signalized intersection without the need for typical physical infrastructure such as stoplights. At the same time, inconvenviences like disrupted traffic flow, are minimized. This driving aid determines the 'state' of an intersection and alerts drivers with the information, allowing them to make educated decisions.

MN-IP Try and Buy
  • Trial period of 6-12 months. $5000/6 months.
  • Fee waived for MN-based companies or if sponsoring $50,000+ in research.
  • Consulting is available to calibrate the hardware, estimated fee is $20,000.
  • Exclusive license for a $15,000 conversion payment.
  • No patent costs.
  • Royalty rate of 2% (1% for MN company) after first $1 million in product sales.

** View the Term Sheet **
** Contact Andrew Morrow for more information.

Safety for Rural Traffic

Suburban and downtown streets often have stoplights or signs that control traffic, which results in a very stop-and-go environment at low speeds. Rural areas, on the other hand, have higher speed limits and fewer signals, however, the signals that are in place force drivers to slow and stop when there may be no other traffic on the road. This technology allows drivers to maintain their speed and avoid collisions safely without unnecessary stops at signals, saving time and improving fuel economy. The state of the intersection, which includes other vehicles and road conditions, is communicated through a number of sensors to the driver via an in-vehicle notification screen or a road-side signal as they near the intersection allowing the driver to make the decision to slow, stop, or continue.

Monitoring Intersection Traffic Conditions

There are three types of sensors located on the sides, above, and underneath the road to detect road conditions:

  • Vehicle Sensing - This group of sensors provides information about all vehicles present at the intersection. This includes their exact location, velocity, and acceleration or deceleration.
  • Driver Identification - Another sensor group gives vehicle and driver classifying information. The sensor can identify the type of vehicle and driver. This helps the driver to make better decisions of when to enter traffic.
  • Road Detection - This final sensor group measures the environmental conditions of the area. This includes weather, temperature, wind speed and direction, humidity, precipitation, and pavement conditions.

Traffic Signal Replacement

Once an object is detected, the sensors correlate with a Geospatial Database, which is a record of objects that are permanently in the area, to determine whether the object is foreign. The approach of another vehicle to an intersection is relayed to the driver giving them adequate time to slow and stop. The state of the surroundings can be revealed to the driver of a vehicle either by an in-vehicle display that communicates with the surrounding technology or a sign along the road the displays the data to any passing vehicle.

This system allows the flow of traffic to continue without the stop and go of traffic lights, while maintaining the same safety benefits of standard signals.


  • Intersection safety with the maintenance of traffic flow
  • Traffic information displayed to drivers
  • Speed, location, size, and velocity vehicle detection
  • Road condition detection including ice
  • Real-time weather sensor detecting humidity, moisture, wind, and temperature

Fulfillment Details

  • Sensors: Sensors will need to be installed along the mainline of intersections. This will include sensors along the side of the pavement, above the road, embedded in the pavement and underneath the pavement.
  • Communications: Hardwired systems or wireless systems can be used to communicate with drivers. A hardwired system will interact with the processing unit and road-side signals. A wireless system will interact with driver in-vehicle interfaces. Both the hardwired and wireless communications allow the individual sensors and processors to interact with each other.
  • Computer Components: A Geospatial Database is connected to the processing unit to detect objects found with the sensors. There is also a gap estimation algorithm in the processing unit to identify the speed of other vehicles. The third component computes the information presented to the driver; combines all the information from all censors and databases into an understandable format.

Phase of Development This technology is a working prototype and is being tested by the state of Minnesota.