Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Legacy Department

Civil Engineering


Chowdhury, Mashrur

Committee Member

Wang , Kuang-Ching

Committee Member

Ogle , Jennifer

Committee Member

Fries , Ryan


Communication systems are the backbone of every effective and reliable traffic control and management application. While traditional fiber optics and telephone communications have long been used in managing and controlling highway traffic, wireless communication technology shows great promise as an alternative solution in traffic management applications due to their suitability for deployment in rural areas, and their flexibility and cost-effectiveness for system expansion. However, the detailed characteristics of various wireless communication technologies and real performance in the field have not been systematically studied. To augment this existing knowledge so that traffic professionals may better utilize these technologies to improve traffic safety, mobility and efficiency, this study aims to 1) identify existing wireless communication technologies used in ITS, and potential wireless communication alternatives that can be widely used in ITS, 2) evaluate the performance, cost and reliability of existing and potential wireless communication technologies in supporting on-line traffic control and management functions, and 3) apply benefit-cost analysis to identify the impacts of using these wireless technologies to support on-line traffic management.
To achieve these research objectives, the author first conducted an interview to discover the specifications of existing communication infrastructures deployed for various ITS related applications and the usage of wireless technologies in different states. Moreover, the author proposed a network design process that considered wireless coverage range and network topology, followed with case studies utilizing Wireless Fidelity (WiFi) and Worldwide Interoperability for Microwave Access (WiMAX) technologies to support a traffic surveillance system in seven metropolitan areas throughout South Carolina. Field tests were conducted to evaluate the performance and reliability of wireless transmissions between adjacent sensor nodes. After that, the author applied a communication simulator, ns-2, to compare the communication performance of a traffic sensor network with WiFi and WiMAX technologies under infrastructure and mesh topologies, and environmental conditions. Based on these simulation results, the author conducted performance-cost analysis for these selected technologies and topologies.
The WiFi field test results indicated that wireless communication performance between two traffic sensors significantly degrades after 300 ft; this distance, however, may vary with the modulation rates and transmission power upon which the system operates. WiMAX nomadic test suggested that line-of-sight (LOS) greatly affects the connectivity level. Moreover, the capabilities and the performance of the WiMAX network are sometimes affected by the characteristics of the client radio. The simulation analysis and benefit-cost analysis indicated a WiFi mesh network solution has the highest throughput-cost ratio, 109 bits/dollar for supporting traffic surveillance systems, while the WiMAX infrastructure option provides the greatest amount of excess bandwidth, 9.15Mbps per device, which benefits the system's future expansion.
This dissertation provides an important foundation for further investigation of the performance and reliability of different wireless technologies. In addition, research results presented in this dissertation will benefit transportation agencies and other stakeholders in evaluating and selecting wireless communication options for different traffic control and management applications.