Next time you see one, you'll know!
We’ve all seen it: You’re driving across the road when suddenly—and seemingly out of nowhere—you cruise across an inconspicuous black tube laid across the street.
Should you slow down now, or is it too late already? Do these things even measure speed? Do they measure anything at all?
As it turns out, these tubes are helpful tools used across the world as in-roadway sensors, and they gather much more information than you might think. But what exactly are they doing? Keep reading so that you’re ready the next time you come across one of these on the street!
Big Brother Is Watching
Big Brother is watching.
Okay, maybe things aren’t as bad as they are in dystopian worlds like the one in 1984, but to a good extent, someone is always watching. Regardless of how you feel about the government on any level, various organizations and individuals are closely monitoring the general population at any time and for many reasons.
And that isn’t always a bad thing! Information collection has happened since ancient times, and it helps cities and nations keep track of the behaviors and needs of their people.
Just take the U.S. Census as an example. For thousands of years, various civilizations have taken a census from time to time to keep track of their populations and to understand the behaviors and needs of their peoples. Though it started in the Roman Empire as a way to oversee the total number of men fit for military service, over the centuries, censuses have evolved into clever ways to gather statistics and understand a population.
But they’re not the only means of doing so. In fact, many of these other methods are things you encounter every day, although you may not realize it.
What was that?
If you’ve ever driven in the United States, you’ve probably come across the following scenario: You’re cruising down a road, not a care in the world, when suddenly you see a thin, black tube stretched across the street, and before you have time to react, you casually bump over it and continue along your way. Sometimes, you might not even notice it was there at all.
What was it? Who put it there? And most importantly, is it going to give you a ticket?
Though they look like they might be a garden house or even just some trash left on the street, these tubes serve a much bigger purpose when it comes to tracking things like speed and traffic on a given road. Here’s how it works!
Pneumatic Road Tubes
As it so happens, those often inconspicuous strips across the street are called pneumatic road tubes, and they are but one of many techniques and tools used in vehicle detection and surveillance.
You’ve probably passed over hundreds of them in your lifetime, therefore helping your local government a little bit each time in their ongoing collection of data. Here’s how it all works:
As you may have guessed by the name, this system functions by using the air generated each time a vehicle passes over the tube. In its most simple sense, a pneumatic road tube is laid across a given street and is connected at one end to either a counter or other analysis software. Each time a vehicle passes over the strip, a puff of air is produced, travels through the tube, and is measured by the attached system.
What is exactly is the tube tracking? Conveniently, this ranges from a simple count of vehicles to traffic patterns and—yes—even speeders.