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Sensor technology for safer roads

A system of fixed and mobile sensors on the road can warn of accident-prone areas and increase safety for drivers.
Sensor technology for safer roads
Efficient and safe road transport is vital to the wellbeing of society, economy and industry. Increased demand on roads, higher axle loads, a rise in freight transport, ongoing accidents and on-road safety concerns have prompted governments to look for high-tech ways to address these key issues.

The EU-funded project 'Intelligent roads' (INTRO) investigated how these issues can be addressed through sensor technology, focusing jointly on safety, capacity, maintenance and road operation.

The project looked at combining existing sensor technology with local databases and real-time networks to improve road safety and capacity. This would be achieved by collecting and distributing feedback of emerging road problems to maintenance authorities and drivers.

INTRO closely outlined scenarios for road transport with all possible situations and factors that are useful for creating 'intelligent road' systems. It demonstrated how these scenarios can be addressed and issued relevant recommendations to alleviate the projected conditions.

A key aspect of the project was traffic safety, such as low-friction road sections that cannot be detected by road users and which represent a major hazard. INTRO studied extended floating car data (xFCD), which determines traffic on the road based on speed, direction of travel and time information from mobile phones in vehicles. Simulations for braking distances were also considered, as was human-machine interfacing (HMI) to inform drivers on low-friction areas.

Another important aspect was infrastructure management, i.e. efficient operation and maintenance of the road network. This requires real-time precise information on road conditions obtained using both stable sensors (roads, bridges, sidewalks) and mobile sensors (probe vehicles) to gather data.

The technology investigated showed particularly strong potential in rural environments where high-speed accidents are more likely to take place. The results can help policymakers and stakeholders develop and exploit the new technology to create safer road infrastructure across Europe.

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