Open Access Te Herenga Waka-Victoria University of Wellington
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Using Bluetooth Detectors to Monitor Urban Traffic Flow with Applications to Traffic Management

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posted on 2021-12-08, 07:22 authored by Hajsalehi Sichani, Mohsen

A comprehensive traffic monitoring system can assist authorities in identifying parts of a road transportation network that exhibit poor performance. In addition to monitoring, it is essential to develop a localized and efficient analytical transportation model that reflects various network scenarios and conditions. A comprehensive transportation model must consider various components such as vehicles and their different mechanical characteristics, human and their diverse behaviours, urban layouts and structures, and communication and transportation infrastructure and their limitations. Development of such a system requires a bringing together of ideas, tools, and techniques from multiple overlapping disciplines such as traffic and computer engineers, statistics, urban planning, and behavioural modelling. In addition to modelling of the urban traffic for a typical day, development of a large-scale emergency evacuation modelling is a critical task for an urban area as this assists traffic operation teams and local authorities to identify the limitations of traffic infrastructure during an evacuation process through examining various parameters such as evacuation time. In an evacuation, there may be severe and unpredictable damage to the infrastructure of a city such as the loss of power, telecommunications and transportation links. Traffic modelling of a large-scale evacuation is more challenging than modelling the traffic for a typical day as historical data is usually available for typical days, whereas each disaster and evacuation are typically one-off or rare events. Damage due to a disaster, combined with a sudden increase of demand due to the evacuation of people will likely result in increased pressure on the remaining, potentially fragmented, infrastructure. The lessons learnt from evacuation modelling can assist traffic operation teams and local authorities to provide safer and more efficient planning. The development of pervasive personal digital devices such as phones, watches, and headphones which can be interconnected with technologies such as Bluetooth, has led to a disruptive change in the ways in which local governments can monitor traffic flows within their cities. Moreover, modern vehicles and navigation systems can interconnect to the personal devices of drivers and passengers primarily via Bluetooth technologies. By continuously monitoring such devices when they are discoverable and in range, traffic patterns can be estimated based on, not only the volume of detection, but also other characteristics of the devices that can be used to give more refined estimates of the real underlying traffic flows. This thesis examines Bluetooth traffic data collected from Bluetooth Traffic Monitoring Systems (BTMS) for modelling and monitoring the urban traffic. BTMS can monitor and track individual detected vehicles through a city. Installation, processing, data transmission, and maintenance of BTMS are easier, quicker and cheaper than existing standard monitoring systems such as CCTV cameras and inductive loops. Inductive loops are typically point-wise traffic monitoring systems that are installed in the roads and can measure the traffic flow. However, the use of BTMS devices presents several challenges: not every vehicle has a detectable device, some have many, and there are devices carried by pedestrians and non-motor vehicles as well as stationary devices. This thesis enumerates and investigates these challenges through statistical modelling, various protocols for cleaning and data preparation, dynamic estimation of the detection rate, and simulation through the case study of the city of Wellington, New Zealand. The city of Wellington experienced damage from the 2016 Kaikoura earthquake (a magnitude 7.8 earthquake), which led to road closures and other infrastructure damage. As part of modelling, performance evaluation, and identifying impacted routes by the 2016 Kaikoura earthquake, this thesis analyses three weeks of BTMS data from the periods before and after the earthquake. Furthermore, this thesis proposes a multi-disciplinary dynamic traffic modelling (TFDA2M) framework and evaluates the performance of TFDA2M on various large-scale evacuation scenarios. These scenarios cover a wide range of real-world use cases which may occur during a disaster such as power failure, an abrupt increase in demand, and damage to the main transportation infrastructure. The findings of this thesis highlight an immediate need for preparations of a large-scale evacuation planning for Wellington to mitigate the consequences of a large-scale evacuation due to a future disaster.  Moreover, TFDA2M can assist traffic operation managers and authorities in making smarter decisions (both quantitative and spatially) through the simulation process. Since TFDA2M has a flexible schema, it can be set to monitor, assess, and manage the traffic flow on a daily basis and disaster occasions.


Copyright Date


Date of Award



Te Herenga Waka—Victoria University of Wellington

Rights License

Author Retains Copyright

Degree Discipline

Computer Science

Degree Grantor

Te Herenga Waka—Victoria University of Wellington

Degree Level


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy

ANZSRC Type Of Activity code

970109 Expanding Knowledge in Engineering

Victoria University of Wellington Item Type

Awarded Doctoral Thesis



Victoria University of Wellington School

School of Engineering and Computer Science


Bubendorfer, Kris; Arnold, Richard