May 29, 2008 Vehicle-based sensors that link back to centralized infrastructure are seen as a promising solution to traffic management and road safety in our increasingly clogged cites. Last year we reported on Nissan's efforts, now European researchers are trialling a similar system on buses.
According to researchers from the MORYNE project, road safety can be improved by allowing traffic controllers, police and other services to access up-to-date information from any number of public buses on the streets. The idea of using vehicles to interact with road infrastructure is not new, however the use of buses as test vehicles for these systems is. Using buses makes sense as they are always on the road and provide a consistent coverage of the traffic grid. During testing, data was collected from the buses using a raft of technologies for mobile sensing, data acquisition, analysis and telecommunications. The researchers equipped city buses with environmental sensors and cameras, allowing the vehicles to become transmitters of measurements, warnings and live or recorded videos.
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The sensors were designed not only to cope with heat and resist pollution, but also to quickly acclimatize to any environment buses may go through including tunnels, tiny dark roads, bridges and city parks. Once the data has been collected, it is processed on the bus using a small, powerful computer. The computer can then warn the bus driver if, for example, foggy or icy conditions are ahead. The computer can also send alerts to a public transport control center via a variety of wireless connections, including mobile radio systems, wifi or wimax networks, and UMTS (3G). The control center can in turn warn nearby buses of dangerous conditions through the same wireless channels.
Other applications for this innovative real-time warning system are to alert city traffic-monitoring centers of road conditions, while bus-mounted road-cams can be used to spot unauthorized cars in bus lanes and inform the police. While the MORYNE project claims to have perfected the technology, it still has lots more to do. For example, it hopes to develop software to work with the video capture technology in order to improve security for bus drivers and passengers by alerting the authorities if a fight breaks out on the bus. According to the researchers, the project’s achievements are not just about the services and sensing units they have incorporated into the system, but what could also be realized in the potential future applications of the technology.