Road safety systems on show at ITS World Congress

A vast array of new products and systems for aiding road safety were displayed at the ITS World Congress in October. David Crawford assesses a selection of safety initiatives exhibited in Orlando. Vital roles for ITS applications in road traffic safety emerge clearly from a new report from the US Transportation Safety Advancement Group. The report has been carried out for the Next Generation 911 What's Next Forum, which is preparing the way for future development of the US national 911 emergency single call
Air Quality & Weather Systems / January 30, 2012
BMW/GEWI warning system
The BMW/GEWI local hazard warning system in operation. (Photo courtesy of BMW)

A vast array of new products and systems for aiding road safety were displayed at the ITS World Congress in October. David Crawford assesses a selection of safety initiatives exhibited in Orlando

Vital roles for ITS applications in road traffic safety emerge clearly from a new report from the US Transportation Safety Advancement Group. The report has been carried out for the Next Generation 911 What's Next Forum, which is preparing the way for future development of the US national 911 emergency single call phone number.

Key areas identified for further work include traffic incident management during emergencies (by giving greater priority and communications support to responders, for example) and work zone management (by giving more effective warnings of emergency vehicles). Fresh approaches to these issues featured strongly among plentiful evidence of new thinking on show at the 2011 6456 ITS World Congress in Orlando, Florida.

Work zone safety has a high priority in the US where annually some 800 people lose their lives and 37,000 more incur injuries in highway construction related accidents. To tackle one specific issue, webcam technology specialist 39 EarthCam has updated its Intelligent Traffic Management Software in response to recent studies showing that drivers tend to follow too closely when passing through work zones. The result has been a worrying increase in accident levels.

The EarthCam system can now generate alerts based on gap analysis. It produces a dynamic multi-lane visualisation of a roadway project, with the user interface showing archived as well as live information on speed, traffic density and volume by vehicle class for up to 10 lanes. It allows the setting of specified software parameters to warn traffic operation centres and to update NTCIP compliant dynamic message signs for alerting drivers to changing flow conditions. Departments of transportation also have an option to tie into social media, such as Facebook and Twitter, to share safety information with travellers.

Traffic data specialist GEWI and German vehicle manufacturer 1731 BMW exhibited an in-vehicle local hazard warning (LHW) system in Orlando. The LHW is designed to automatically alert drivers when they are about 1.6km (one mile) away from a work zone and so reduce the risk of incidents as they approach. The companies are claiming a good reception for LHW systems, which are due to be available in Germany by 2012 following a final operational demonstration completed this year.

Canadian company 538 Versilis showcased its SwiftGate automated lane closure system of solar powered pivoting modules, introduced to provide temporary barriers for use at work zones and other highway closures. The modules can be activated by an RF device, mobile phone or web-based application to create a continuous obstacle within four minutes if necessary. The system incorporates SwiftSign dynamic signage to alert and divert drivers.

Roadway condition is another important factor in traffic safety. Working with machine vision developer 518 Allied Vision Technologies (AVT) and partner 1870 Norpix, Florida based land surveyor Southeastern Surveying & Mapping Corporation (SSMC) has come up with a mobile digital geo-referencing system for its machine vision based pavement assessment vehicle.

Equipped front and rear with AVT's 2255 Prosilica GC1350C cameras, developed in a compact design able to operate in extreme environments and varying light conditions, the vehicle is now being used for carrying out condition assessments of roadways across Florida as well as overseas.

By combining geographic information system data, satellite-based positioning and digital camera imaging, the SSMC image data collection system collects information on safety critical roadway and pavement features such as potholes, rutting and longitudinal, transverse and edge cracking. With a data rate of 125 Mbytes per second, the company sees its solution offering a less labour intensive approach than that of conventional manual surveys, allowing electronic data storage for future referencing.

Detection and communications

A new version of radar-based iControl from 81 Kapsch TrafficCom's South African subsidiary Traffic Management Technologies (TMT) offers a new level of support for the management of signal controlled intersections. TMT executive director Douglas Davey says: "The latest iControl system can decide for itself on the best way to optimise traffic flow to reduce congestion and increase road safety." Davey claims it as a "significant advancement on conventional Doppler technology, with a 210m by 58m radar footprint". The system has been developed with the aid of funding from the South African Department of Trade & Industry.

California based US highway and intersection management specialist 119 Sensys Networks has made a move towards meeting the safety needs of vulnerable road users by introducing its MicroRadar battery powered and radar-based wireless sensor - the company's first departure from use of magnetic sensor technology.

The new device is designed to detect bicycles and to differentiate between these and other vehicles, while reducing hardware and costs in comparison to magnetic sensors.

Sensys Networks has also introduced an access point controller card to bring the processing of data from its sensors into traffic controller cabinets, allowing a doubling of the number of sensors that can be controlled. "A common thread across all applications is accurate, reliable detection,"says Sensys Networks director of product management Michael Volling.

Another California based company, traffic management specialist 73 Iteris, has announced introduction of Vantage Vector, the latest addition to its portfolio of vehicle detection solutions. Vantage Vector is designed to enhance the company's video detection capability with radar sensor technology.

The all-in-one vehicle detection product combines video and radar sources to deliver a wider range of intersection sensing, including stop-bar and advanced zone detection. Communication from roadside cabinets is by standard Wi-Fi connectivity and a robust graphical user interface aids straightforward radar set up.

Shipments are expected to begin in the first quarter of 2012.

Houston Radar launched its PD300 FMCW 'milli-power' OEM radar designed for on-road presence indication, volume and occupancy measurements across up to six lanes. This simultaneous target tracking and distance measuring device is claimed to deliver target distance measurement at unprecedented resolution.

With power consumption of 0.18W and measuring 51m by 51mm by 13mm, the PD300 OEM radar is aimed specifically at solar and battery powered applications, for permanent or temporary installations.

Video networking solutions provider 555 Impath Networks showed a range of surveillance systems in Orlando. The iN7100 Pro Series is a hybrid digital video system that combines digital and network video recorders. It can support up to 32 IP cameras concurrently, allowing multiple video streams to be viewed live and recorded on high definition storage.

Impath Networks marketing and sales vice president Leo Gaessler says: "It's important that transportation agencies are able to both view and record video surveillance and then disseminate the video to interested parties - whether it's a control centre, a local authority or a public website." 189 Siemens showcased a system designed to give responders, public transport agencies, freight operators and traffic management centre staff an interoperable wireless connection direct from vehicles to traffic signals. The need for such a link has emerged strongly in the light of traveller safety and evacuation challenges faced during recent extreme weather events including the April 2011 'super outbreak' of tornadoes across the south eastern US, which caused US$10bn worth of damage.

Digital radio specialist Harris Public Safety & Professional Communications highlighted the role of its linear simulcast technology in responding to one aspect of the super outbreak - communications between public safety agencies. The company stressed the flexibility of its P25IP system, which allowed users to switch between talk groups and make direct calls from user to user, enabling faster reactions by first responders as radio traffic increased by up to five times normal levels.

Connected vehicles

Connected vehicle technology systems, using 5.9 GHz DSRC (dedicated short range communications), offer huge potential for improving traffic safety - notably by helping drivers to avoid crashes.

Research and testing is currently under way in the US in support of a decision by the NHTSA, expected by 2013, that could mandate the installation of the necessary equipment in all new light vehicles.

A parallel decision on trucks is due in 2014. Part of the research involves a 'safety pilot' programme deploying up to 3,000 vehicles and a series of driver clinics around the US, where participants can experience the technology in a controlled environment. A foretaste of the potential of connected vehicles technology took place alongside the ITS World Congress, with delegates able to experience system demonstrations running on the nearby Walt Disney World Speedway.

Data from one such exercise by a 20 year partnership between traffic control specialist Econolite and detection system developer Image Sensing Systems was also made available to the Orange County Traffic Management Center.

Another joint demonstration, this time by automotive technology developer Denso and Econolite, showed how connected vehicle technology can be used to influence safe movement of traffic through networks of signalised intersections; for example, by enabling coordinated operation of traffic signals and advance crash avoidance technologies.


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