Feb. 16, 1999 HAIFA, Israel, and NEW YORK, N.Y., January 11, 1999 -- An unmanned computerized system for enforcing traffic laws that records multiple violations and issues tickets in just 10 minutes was developed and is now in use in Israel, a country with one of the world's highest number of highway fatalities.
TELEM (Traffic Efficient Law Enforcement and Monitoring) is the only system that monitors vehicles' speed, crossing of divider lines, violation of traffic lights or signs, driving the wrong way on a one-way street and tailgating. It transmits data -- including video pictures, the vehicle registration number, the place, time and nature of the offense -- to a central station where a data processing system issues and mails traffic tickets. The entire process is completed in less than 10 minutes, at the rate of eight violations per second. This means that while the driver is leaving the scene of the incident, a ticket is already on its way home. Because TELEM relies on physical sensors, it is also more accurate -- to within 0.1% versus 3-5% -- and much more economical to operate than others currently in use. These rely on electronic sensors such as lasers, radar Doppler effect and other electro-optic devices which require police officers to monitor them at $50,000-$100,000 a year.
"TELEM is unique in that it records a wide variety of traffic violations; other such systems are mostly limited to violations of traffic lights and excessive speed," says its developer, Simon S. Cohen, general manager of Tracon, one of some 40 start-up companies in the Technion-Israel Institute of Technology's incubator program. "TELEM is also more exact and costs much less to operate than anything similar on the market." The system has been operating successfully for more than a year on several roads in Haifa, one of Israel's three major cities, recording thousands of traffic violations.
Israeli police say they are extremely pleased with TELEM's performance, and U.S. law enforcement professionals agree that the system can be effective here. "It has tremendous value if used appropriately," said Chief Robert Arruda of the Yorktown, N.Y. Police Department, an opinion shared by Deputy Chief Robert Merchant, Jr. of the Altamonte Springs, Fla. Police Department. The device consists of two or more metallic strips imbedded in a roadway, a video camera, a central data processing system, and a cellular or line link between the monitors and the central processor. A sensor is triggered when it comes in contact with a vehicle. It is fully automatic and operates 24 hours a day in all kinds of weather. "The units now in operation pay for themselves several times a day," says Cohen. "However, once they are uniformly distributed on the roads and the public becomes aware of their effectiveness, we hope violations will decline, so that income generated by fines will be negligible. Our objective is not to generate fines but to reduce accidents." The system, including installation and communication equipment, is available commercially throughout the world for about $65,000 for two, and $80,000 for four lanes. The market for automatic traffic law enforcement systems is estimated at $300 million, a figure likely to increase as such systems become more widespread.
The Technion-Israel Institute of Technology, known as"Israel's MIT,"is the country's premier scientific and technological center for applied research and education. It commands a worldwide reputation for its pioneering work in communications, electronics, computer science, biotechnology, water-resource management, materials engineering, aerospace and medicine. The American Technion Society (ATS) is the Technion's support organization in the United States. Based in New York City, it is a nationwide organization with more than 20,000 supporters and 17 offices around the country.
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