New 'fish eye' traffic cameras in Austin help improve signal timing

New cameras are showing up in Austin that could help improve signal timing throughout the city. (Photo: CBS Austin)

New cameras are showing up in Austin that could help improve signal timing throughout the city.

The Austin city council could approve funding this week to buy up to $2 million or 100 new traffic detection cameras. The city already has traffic detection cameras, but these new cameras can help engineers improve signal timing.

The Austin Transportation Department says these cameras will also decrease traffic closure time when installing them at intersections. That’s because it’s a 360 degree view camera that can look in all directions and they only have to install one camera. That can take just a couple hours.

Previously engineers would have to install four cameras to look in each direction. That could’ve taken two days.

“So we call it a fish eye because that’s kind of what it looks like. It can see the whole intersection from one camera,” ATD’s Jim Dale said.

“One camera instead of putting up four cameras saves time,” he said.

The cameras keep track of each vehicle going through an intersection and how many vehicles turn. It keeps track of all that data and software automatically calculates green time percentage. That means engineers can easily notice any issues at intersections with one of those cameras.

“Now it’s done for us automatically so it’s more efficient,” Dale said.

There are already about 15 cameras installed throughout the city, mostly on Loop 360. One is also on Riverside and Congress.

“I’m definitely not against the camera because I think traffic flow needs to improve in the city of Austin,” resident Tony Dreivus said as he walked by that camera.

Dreivus said sometimes he feels like he sits at a light forever.

“It almost seems like the people who designed the traffic lights didn’t take into account certain times a day,” Dreivus said.

“It’s very frustrating, especially when you’re trying to get somewhere in a hurry and you’re sitting in a light for 15 minutes or five minutes, seems like 15 minutes but it’s really only been a couple minutes,” he said.

Dale says if anyone has an issue with signal timing they should call 311.