Frank Kemper wearing a blue suit and posing for a picture, with a blurred background of people standing behind him.

Q1: How can your Traffic Incident Management System (TIMS) improve upon current traffic accident response to reduce incidents’ impact on local traffic patterns?

TIMS is an incident management and resolution system, capable of quickly documenting incidents, supervising all persons involved, clearing the roadway, and directing traffic to reduce the impact on other cars on the road.

The current system of response to traffic accidents is inadequate, causing extra traffic, delays, and additional environmental pollution. There are so many traffic accidents on a daily basis encompassing different types of vehicles, different number of vehicles, injuries, level of destruction, traffic pattern, and infrastructure layout that it’s hard to envision a “one-size-fits-all” system. The TIMS accounts for all the different variables surrounding any traffic accident. The TIMS focuses on safety, reducing the number of required personnel on scene, as well as reducing the number of secondary incidents caused in the queue of the primary incident.

Q2: How did this problem come to your attention?

Two years ago, my wife secured her dream job about two hours away from where we were living at the time. We would commute each weekend to see each other, and there were many times we were delayed due to traffic incidents. It is because of this experience and with the love and support of my wonderful wife that I was able to pursue the MSE degree, and ultimately, this project.

Q3: How did you use a systems engineering approach to solve this problem?

First, I identified all of the variables that the system must be able to expect and calculate into its response, as well as what will be expected of the system, and general concept of functionality initially derived from current traffic incident management procedure.

I was then able to break down the individual roles the system would need to perform and then further worked to establish the individual components required by each of these roles to form the conceptual design. This systems engineering approach of working backwards to identify the system requirements, to identify functions, to allocate components, was the only way that the solution to this very complex problem could be achieved.

Q4: How does the TIMS system do a better job at resolving traffic flow after an accident compared to the systems already in place?

It uses early-warning sensors, advanced pattern recognition software, and novel solutions to replace the standard set of first responders to traffic incidents. The system’s user needs are the same as the current traffic incident management process, but the solution is refined for increased efficiency rather than relying on the many different systems used currently by the police, fire, EMS, tow trucks, and departments of transportation.

Each minute that a travel lane of a highway is blocked leads to increased traffic congestion following the clearance of the incident. The TIMS focuses on reducing this time. The network of sensors allows for almost instantaneous detection and documentation of the incident. The system will then recommend solutions to the incident commander and create an incident response plan based on prior incident data and incoming data while en route to the scene. The documentation of the scene is streamlined using interactive panoramic photography to better facilitate incident investigation.

Q5: Do you think your solution is a realistic option, and might it be developed later in real life?

I think it’s too early to tell. The preliminary architecture that I developed for this project needs to undergo a few critical systems engineering technical reviews and further component development before I could really make an informed conclusion.

Based on the work that I did for this project and some risks that I identified, I think it’s going to really come down to a cost-benefit analysis with the stakeholders that currently perform the traffic incident management roles and if they think the value added of the system is worth the cost.

At this point, I think there are aspects of the current configuration of the system that could be developed into real life systems to improve the current processes in specific aspects of incident response.

Q6: How have your studies in the Systems Engineering program played a role in the project development?

This project brought together all of the knowledge and experiences that I learned through the JHU SE program over the past 3.5 years. Each class really built on each other in such a way that helped me become more confident in my understanding and my ability to execute the intricate details of the SE process.