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This paper presents a real-time vision-based vehicle detection system employing an online boosting algorithm. It is an online AdaBoost approach for a cascade of strong classifiers instead of a single strong classifier. Most existing cascades of classifiers must be trained offline and cannot effectively be updated when online tuning is required. The idea is to develop a cascade of strong classifiers for vehicle detection that is capable of being online trained in response to changing traffic environments. To make the online algorithm tractable, the proposed system must efficiently tune parameters based on incoming images and up-to-date performance of each weak classifier. The proposed online boosting method can improve system adaptability and accuracy to deal with novel types of vehicles and unfamiliar environments, whereas existing offline methods rely much more on extensive training processes to reach comparable results and cannot further be updated online. Our approach has been successfully validated in real traffic environments by performing experiments with an onboard charge-coupled-device camera in a roadway vehicle.