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Vehicle Detection Sensors

Cargo truck at warehouse building


The ability to reliably detect vehicles offers significant advantages for asset management, resource allocation, site safety and traffic control.

Identifying the right technology for your vehicle detection application can be challenging, and many factors must be taken into consideration, including task, size of target, sensing range, sensor mounting, and whether the application is primarily indoor or outdoor.

Wireless Magnetometer

A magnetometer works by using a passive sensing technology to detect large ferrous objects (for example, a truck, automobile, or rail car) by measuring the change in the ambient magnetic field. When a vehicle alters that magnetic field, the sensor detects those changes. The range of the magnetometer will depend on the target.

Wireless Ultrasonic Sensor

A wireless ultrasonic sensor is often an ideal solution for indoor or covered parking applications. Using sound waves to detect objects, an ultrasonic sensor can be mounted directly onto the ceiling of a parking garage to identify the presence of a vehicle in the parking space below. The sensor is taught a distinct point within its sensing range (e.g. the ground) and will detect any object regardless of shape, size or reflective angle that crosses between the sensor face and the taught point.

Wireless magnetometer detects vehicles near an automated gate
Wireless magnetometer detects vehicles near an automated gate
Wireless magnetometer detects vehicles near an automated gate
Underground parking garage showing wireless ultrasonic sensor detecting parked car
Radar sensor reliably detects train cars in a tunnel
Infrared optical sensor detects vehicle exiting a car wash
Measuring light grid detects vehicle and tow bar at a toll booth

Radar Sensor

Radar sensors are ideal for long-range outdoor applications. Unlike photoelectric or ultrasonic sensors, radar sensors are not affected by conditions such as wind, rain, fog, light, humidity and air temperature. This results in accurate detection in outdoor environments. Many sensors can also be configured to detect objects up to a specified distance, ignoring objects beyond the set point, resulting in higher accuracy. Furthermore, while inductive and capacitive sensors can detect only moving targets, radar sensors can detect vehicles that are both stationary and in motion.

Optical Sensor (Infrared)

Compared to other technologies, optical sensors are not used as frequently for vehicle detection, but they can be a good option for some applications. An opposed mode optical sensor uses the interruption of a light beam between an emitter and a receiver to detect objects. For example, the presence of a vehicle passing between the emitter and the receiver breaks the beam of light. This technology can be used to detect whether a vehicle has completely exited a car wash.

Measuring Light Grid

Measuring light grids are often used for vehicle detection to start and stop a transaction (e.g., paying a toll at a tollbooth). A sender and a receiver are installed on either side of a toll lane, stretching an array of light beams across the lane. When a vehicle enters the detection area, data from each beam can be used to determine vehicle class and the number of axles with a high level of accuracy.

Compare Vehicle Detection Technologies

  Max Sensing Range Size of Target
Wireless Magnetometer
Depends on the size of target All sizes Can be installed above or below grade
Wireless Ultrasonic Sensor 4 meters All sizes Must be mounted overhead
Radar Sensor 40 meters Large, predictable targets (e.g. trains) Minimum of 6 feet from target
Optical Sensor (Infrared) 200 meters 5 millimeters or greater
Requires mounting for both emitter and receiver
Measuring Light Grid 2 meters
All sizes Requires mounting for both emitter and receiver
R-Gage Radar Sensor
2 mins  44 secs 
Mining Industry Solutions
1 min  29 secs 
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  1. EZ-ARRAY light screens excel at high-speed, precise process monitoring and inspection, profiling and web-guiding applications with simple installation.

  2. The DXM controller series integrates Banner's wireless radio, cellular and Ethernet connectivity, and local I/O to provide a platform for the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT).

  3. A programmable measuring light curtain for inspections and profiling with a long range up to 17m.

  4. Radar sensor featuring a narrow beam & high sensitivity for detecting moving or stationary targets, unaffected by ambient weather.

  5. Radar sensor with narrow and wide beam options to detect moving or stationary targets in all weather conditions. Graphical User Interface provides simple setup, greater control, and visibility into sensor settings.

  6. Radar sensors reliably detect objects within a narrow beam pattern from up to 100 meters away in all weather conditions. Available in discrete and analog models.

  7. High power sensing with ranges up to 200 m, e/m relay output models available.

  8. High sensitivity radar sensor, ideal for collision avoidance on mobile equipment like reach stackers, forklifts, & mining vehicles. Adj. sensing field.

  9. The T30R sensor is a longer-range alternative to ultrasonic sensors, and provides more reliable detection and position feedback in extreme outdoor conditions and other challenging environments. It features a shorter dead zone, better accuracy, and the ability to see a wider range of targets than traditional 24GHz radar sensors.

  10. FlexPower Node with internal battery designed for vehicle detection.

  11. Wireless FlexPower Node with internal battery designed for object or vehicle detection.