A perspective from Oregon’s mid-Willamette Valley

A new intersection feature: Thermal detectors

Written January 25th, 2023 by Hasso Hering

The intersection of Santiam Highway and Waverly Drive on Wednesday afternoon. ODOT has installed pedestrian detection cameras here and on Pacific Boulevard at Airport Road.

Following up on the new signal installations on two Albany highways, here’s a revelation: Yes, ODOT did put in new cameras, but they look not for vehicles but for people on foot.

Let’s back up. In November, a reader asked whether newly installed cameras at Waverly Drive and Santiam Highway and Airport Road and Pacific Boulevard were red-light cameras.

No, they weren’t. But ODOT’s regional spokeswoman, Angela Beers Seydel, came back with news that there were indeed new cameras there. “They are pedestrian detection cameras,” she said.

Really? I  hadn’t seen them and asked more questions.

“They are interesting looking things,” she replied. “These are a new part of our work to make the system safer for everyone using it. They take the thermal image of pedestrians, rather than a picture, showing where people are in the intersection and adjusting the traffic lights to give more crossing time as needed.”

Beers Seydel also sent a link to a website of Teledyne FLIR, in which the company calls the cameras the “world’s most advanced integrated thermal traffic detector.”

Teledyne says: “TrafiSense2 does not need light to operate, and instead uses the thermal energy emitted from road users. This enables the sensor to detect vehicles and vulnerable road users at night, over long distances, and in harsh weather conditions.”

Wednesday afternoon I got around to looking for one of these gizmos at the intersection of Santiam and Waverly.

They are tiny, mounted high on the signal posts and hard to see from the ground. But I think I spotted one:

Here’s one of the thermal detectors on Santiam at Waverly, that little black thing at the upper right.

If these things work as intended, they should ease the flow of traffic by adjusting the signals to the walking speed of actual pedestrians in the crosswalk. Maybe the system also prevents unnecessary delays caused by “walk” signals that stay green long after the walkers have crossed.

People who often use those intersections will be the ultimate judge of how well the system works. (hh)

11 responses to “A new intersection feature: Thermal detectors”

  1. Cap B. says:

    Great reporting, Hasso. Thanks.

  2. Monte Grenz says:

    Wait until the tweekers figure that out.

  3. Carol says:

    Who funded that? ODOT?

    • MarK says:

      Does it matter? One way or another, it all comes back to us taxpayers footing the bill.

    • Jason says:

      This seems like an odd thing to be questioning the funding.
      ODOT added safety features to prevent a pedestrian from being hit by a car.

      We know from HH’s reporting this is an ODOT project on a state highway.

      Congrats to ODOT for adding technology to keep us safer.

  4. Scott Bruslind says:

    FLIR (Forward Looking Infra Red), headquartered in Wilsonville, has quite a history as a tech giant; an old growth specimen of the silicon forest.
    Wikipedia (look it up yourself) recounts the fortunes of this Oregon business icon: intrigue, trade secrets litigation, stock manipulation, a settlement for an alleged violation of the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act.
    Will bear all that in mind, the next outing for bargain baked goods; looking up from the Franz outlet parking lot.

  5. Adam says:

    Technology like this can be useful, but in the wrong hands, it can be used like a tether to control others. Ask the people in China how they feel about being tracked EVERYWHERE. Heck, they us facial recognition software in vending machines for payment processing. Isn’t that just so helpful. They don’t have to carry around a CC or money.

    You can run but you can’t hide. “I’m going to find you my pretty and your little dog too”.

    No thank you.


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