Investing for the Future: The Six Cost Factors for Traffic Data Collection Technologies

September 22, 2023

Investing for the Future: The Six Cost Factors for Traffic Data Collection Technologies

Melissa Warnke

Melissa Warnke

Director, Product Marketing

In today's fast-paced world, data drives decisions, and nowhere is this more evident than in the realm of transportation planning. The critical task of understanding how many vehicles traverse our roads, what types they are, and where they're headed is essential for effective road management. Transportation agencies invest significant sums each year in technologies that help collect traffic data. But how do they accurately calculate the cost of these data collection technologies? The answer lies in the Total Cost of Ownership (TCO) formula, which encompasses six key factors. Let's delve into these factors to gain a comprehensive understanding of the financial considerations when implementing traffic data collection solutions.

Direct Cost

The direct cost of a traffic data collection system often varies based on specific requirements. Primarily, two variables come into play: the number of lanes that need coverage and the duration over which data collection is needed.

Loops and Piezo Sensors

For these traditional technologies, there is a fixed installation cost, along with variable expenses tied to the number of lanes to be covered.

AI System

In contrast, an AI-based system incurs a one-time fixed installation cost for sites with up to six lanes, along with a recurring monthly data charge.

Engineering Time

The time invested in the design, permitting, and construction of a data collection site significantly affects the timeline for initiating data collection and utilization.

Loops and Piezo Sensors

Typically, it takes at least two months for the design and permitting process, with an additional four hours per lane required for construction.

AI System

In the case of AI technology, the design, permitting, and configuration can be completed in about four weeks, with construction taking four hours, making it a more efficient option.

Crew Safety

Safety is a paramount concern in transportation construction. The cost associated with crew member injuries or fatalities is immeasurable, while the value of ensuring safety is priceless.

Loops and Piezo Sensors

Construction with loops and piezo sensors often takes place in the roadway, frequently at night, creating inherently risky conditions.

AI System

AI system installation is typically done during the day, on the side of the road, significantly reducing the inherent risks associated with construction.

Technology Downtime

The uptime of data collection technologies is crucial. Downtime can impact the accuracy and reliability of the collected data, thus affecting the true cost.

Loops and Piezo Sensors

When a sensor goes down in this system, it is often due to road deterioration and cannot be repaired. Instead, a new data collection site must be constructed.

AI System

In the case of AI technology, if a processor unit goes offline temporarily, the site continues to capture data, which is then transmitted as soon as the processor is back online, minimizing data loss.

Remaining Value

Understanding the value of a data collection site over time is critical for assessing the overall return on investment.

Loops and Piezo Sensors

Once a site reaches the end of its maximum 5-year lifespan, it is decommissioned and no longer usable, limiting its potential equity.

AI System

AI sites, on the other hand, operate indefinitely and can even be upgraded with additional AI technology when available, preserving their value.

Data Accuracy

Ultimately, the primary reason for investing in data collection technologies is to obtain accurate and reliable data. Different technologies offer varying levels of accuracy, which is fundamental to their value.

Loops and Piezo Sensors

In normal conditions, these systems provide high accuracy. However, data cannot be reliably collected during congestion.

AI System

AI technology excels in delivering high accuracy across a wide range of conditions, including normal traffic, congestion, and nighttime scenarios.

By thoroughly comprehending the Total Cost of Ownership for data collection technologies, traffic planning teams can make informed decisions on the most cost-effective solutions to meet their data collection goals. This approach ensures the best possible return on investment for the public funds entrusted to them.


In the ever-evolving landscape of transportation planning, data collection technologies play a pivotal role. As demonstrated, the Total Cost of Ownership takes into account various factors, from direct costs to safety considerations and data accuracy. By carefully evaluating these factors, transportation agencies can make well-informed decisions that benefit both their budgets and the communities they serve.

*Based on a 4-lane project over 10 years


What is the Total Cost of Ownership (TCO) formula?

The TCO formula is a comprehensive financial assessment that includes direct costs, engineering time, crew safety, technology downtime, remaining value, and data accuracy to determine the overall cost of implementing data collection technologies.

How does AI-based data collection technology compare to traditional methods in terms of safety?

AI-based technology is safer as it involves minimal construction in the roadway and is often conducted during the day, reducing inherent risks compared to traditional methods.

What happens when a data collection sensor goes down in traditional systems?

When a sensor in traditional systems fails, typically due to road deterioration, it cannot be repaired, and a new data collection site must be constructed.

How long do traditional data collection sites last compared to AI-based sites?

Traditional sites have a maximum lifespan of 5 years before decommissioning, whereas AI-based sites operate indefinitely and can receive upgrades.

Which data collection technology offers higher accuracy in various conditions?

AI-based technology consistently provides high accuracy in a wide range of conditions, including normal traffic, congestion, and nighttime scenarios.

Investing in the right data collection technology is not just about the initial cost but involves a comprehensive assessment of these six key factors. This ensures that transportation agencies make informed decisions, ultimately benefiting the public they serve.

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