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Rita (Yaxin) Hu
Doctoral Candidate, Civil Engineering

Rita HuWhen you’re stuck in traffic, the same hands-free device you use to interact with your cell phone to warn your boss you’ll be late could help you avoid congested routes in the future, according to Rita (Yaxin) Hu.

The civil engineering doctoral candidate is able to track traffic conditions across sections of Ontario’s highways using strategically located Bluetooth detectors. These units pick up the unique transceiver IDs from Bluetooth enabled devices and determine the time taken for a device to travel from one detector to the next. The measured travel times are then relayed in real-time to Hu.

By comparing how long it takes individual vehicles to get from one detector to another, Hu and her doctoral supervisor civil engineering professor Bruce Hellinga can predict travel times across that stretch of highway. “Ultimately the  information we come up with can help commuters avoid traffic jams by determining when to leave and what route to take,” says Hu.

Unlike camera-based systems, Bluetooth detectors aren’t affected by bad weather and they’re far easier to maintain than loop detectors embedded in roadways. That’s good news to Ontario’s Ministry of Transportation, which is partnering with Waterloo Engineering and Hu in this research, and even better news to the province’s commuters.