Sheridan and SONAMI collaboration helps revolutionize traffic industry with intelligent design

We’ve all been there: idling at a traffic intersection – alone – waiting for the light to turn, and wondering why traffic lights can’t be smart enough to recognize that it’s safe to proceed.

Fortunately, Stinson Owl-Lite, a major player in the traffic management industry, is inventing just such a smart system, thanks to a collaboration with the academic expertise at Sheridan College.

In fact this “intelligent intersection,” which has eyes via cameras and a brain through analytics and data processing, will be clever enough to make decisions in real time, before you even pull up to the intersection. It will see emergency vehicles on their way or whether a group of people need more time to cross and minimize traffic jams.

Such a system has the potential to replace the current expensive, non-responsive, wired system, with a network of solar-powered intersection signals that communicate wirelessly and with built-in video-based vehicle detection for efficient intersection operation, says Michael McGuire, Stinson’s ITS Manager & Solution Architect.

“One of the big goals is to allow this system to run off the grid and wirelessly communicate with each other, so that a community can get the benefits of smart, coordinated traffic signals without the massive cost of running power and communication infrastructure to each intersection,” says McGuire.

“It’s our mission to provide opportunities for advanced learning and applied research so our graduates are able to meet the changing needs of today’s manufacturing industry,” says Chrétien.

It’s a bold project being led by Prof. Shirook Ali, in collaboration with numerous research professors and students at Sheridan College’s Centre for Advanced Manufacturing and Design Technologies (CAMDT). This research partnership was made possible thanks to funding received by the Southern Ontario Network for Advanced Manufacturing Innovation (SONAMI), a Niagara College-led consortium funded by the Federal Economic Development Agency for Southern Ontario (FedDev Ontario), a single-window approach to supporting manufacturers’ research and development needs.

“The FedDev funding is an important resource for our company,” says McGuire. “[This SONAMI grant] allows us to engage in projects and R&D initiatives that might otherwise be too large in scope to participate in. And, Sheridan provides a wealth of knowledge on new technologies and engineering approaches that we might not normally be aware of.”

As CAMDT’s director Michelle Chrétien, PhD, explains, Sheridan offers companies access to specialists in fields such as robotics and flexible manufacturing, wireless communication, and mechanical/electrical engineering.

“It’s our mission to provide opportunities for advanced learning and applied research so our graduates are able to meet the changing needs of today’s manufacturing industry,” says Chrétien.

Once the product is market-ready, McGuire will look globally, developing locations such as South America, Africa and Asia, because the specifications for intersections are currently not as rigid as in the west. However, as automated and connected vehicle technologies develop, the current standards will need rethinking and Stinson’s product is designed with those opportunities in mind.

“If adopted in Ontario, we would see a huge reduction in the construction costs of intersections as well as great improvement in the efficiency and flow of traffic,” says McGuire.

Additionally, pollution would be decreased through the use of green energy as well as from reduced idle times. It’s a benefit that fits well with the Vaughan-based Stinson (a wholly Canadian owned and operated company), who has a commitment to lessen environmental impacts.

While it’s still far too early to forecast sales, McGuire considers a range of “a few hundred thousand in sales for the first few years and potentially growing much higher with widespread adoption.”

CAMDT is Sheridan’s advanced manufacturing technology “playground” where manufacturers and industry partners can explore highly specialized manufacturing and design equipment. The Centre is a learning environment for students and a testing platform for local manufacturing and industry.