In recent years, there has been a substantial increase in NTCIP activity in South America. In 2010, Brazil began the widespread use of NTCIP, and its adoption has continued to grow at an increasing rate. For the most part, specifying and using NTCIP in South America is the same as North America. There is very little distinction between field devices or dynamic message signs. There are, however, fundamental differences with traffic controllers and multi-faced signs.
Dynamic message signs in South America
There are a variety of NTCIP VMS signs that can be deployed in South America. Given the standard commonly used in South America, the Parsons team is able to modify the signs to support NTCIP. The software effort needed to communicate with an NTCIP sign requires a high level of expertise, but is less intensive than that of a traffic intersection controller.
Additionally, NTCIP is typically built around the assumption of a single sign face. Some European style signs have a high-density graphic area with adjacent low-density lines for text. The concept of different densities in a single sign is not addressed by current NTCIP standards, but that is an obstacle that can be overcome.
NTCIP traffic controllers in South America
There is a distinct level of complexity inside a traffic controller. Their functionality is incredibly intricate, especially with some of the newer features available. Most of the confusion in signal controllers revolves around the type of model being used. Phase-based and stage-based models are two fundamentally different ways of passing traffic through an intersection. Every intersection in the US is a phase-based intersection, which allows for a variable signal cycle. South America uses European-style stage-based control, a fixed assignment of red, yellow and green indicators.
The obstacle within a bid arises when an NTCIP intersection controller is specified, but the overall system is stage-based. This mixing of standards often causes confusion if the issue is not addressed early in the bid process.
What’s on the horizon?
Many bids from South America are continuing to specify NTCIP, but we’re seeing an increased amount of confusion because there is a disconnect between devices that are compliant and implementation methods that are not. We will continue to see changes in the market as it becomes more dependent on NTCIP.
Success will depend heavily on policymakers and manufacturers working together and communicating effectively to ensure it is implemented in a way that everyone understands. This includes the move from phase-based to stage-based control, custom MIBS for stage-based equipment, and how to approach multi-faceted signs within NTCIP standards.
Delcan Technologies can help by providing NTCIP testing and consulting services to ensure conformance and help your project or bid run more smoothly.
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NTCIP is frequently used to manage and control traffic signal controllers. NTCIP 1202 is the section of the standard that addresses traffic signal controllers, which includes the standard objects for most of the general settings. Some examples of standard objects include how an intersection works, setting times for green, yellow, red and the order that the movements progress around the intersection.
Managing traffic patterns
NTCIP 1202 allows the user to control and direct traffic patterns using traffic signal controllers. In general, all traffic signal controllers respond to pattern commands, which is the primary method of changing or controlling what’s happening at a traffic intersection.
Pattern commands are used to create time-of-day traffic patterns that occur on a regular basis. In the morning, most commuters are headed to work, so traffic is heavy. Mid-morning is a more general, non-optimized pattern. Lunchtime can be heavier, mid-afternoon returns to a general pattern and then finally, the rush hour pattern, where signal are optimized for traffic flowing out of an area and headed home.
The central system can command a pattern to a zone and all traffic controllers will run the same pattern until told to do something differently. It can also generate a “status and health” report, which pulls back the default standard timing parameters and displays the results on a map in a traffic center, so authorities can monitor the activity around the city. Standard NTCIP also has the ability to alert the user to issues such as electrical problems, when a controller is in default flash mode or when a cabinet door is open, for example.
Manufacturers are not permitted to change, expand or modify NTCIP 1202, but there are some placeholders available in the 1202 MIB that allow manufacturers to specify or add commands. In some commands, there may be multiple ways for the device to perform, but there is also an option for “other” in the standard object. When manufacturers have a custom object for their device, they create their own MIB, which specifies what happens in the traffic controller when you set the standard object to “other”.
Also, some manufacturers have proprietary objects that control how devices behave in situations where the standard objects do not define the task or perform special functions based on what’s happening in the intersection.
Version 2 is the current version of NTCIP 1202, but a new version is in development. The updated version will add coverage of several features that most traffic controller manufacturers already have but are not included in the original specification. It will allow central systems to perform more of the standard tasks and do it consistently across multiple manufacturers. The challenge will be gaining consensus among manufacturers as to the generic defaults. The process is expected to begin in 2016 but may take longer than a year to have it completed and approved.