Smart solar-powered road studs

Smart solar-powered road studs
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March 19, 2008 The next generation of ‘smart’ solar-powered road markings which warn of bad weather or slow-moving traffic ahead and can help reduce motorway hold-ups, have proved a significant success on highways in the Netherlands.

Two installations have significantly eased traffic congestion on Holland’s most crowded motorways, while the system is also proving a success in trials on the M8 in Scotland.

The Astucia road studs were chosen by the Dutch Ministry of Transport who are at the forefront of looking at new ways to improve traffic management on crowded motorways which are nearing their capacity during the rush hour periods. One solution has been to increase the capacity of the road by opening the hard shoulder as an extra lane during the rush hour combined with Dynamic Lane Marking to indicate when the hard shoulder is open for use as an additional ‘plus-lane’.

The ‘smart’ solar powered road studs are ‘hard wired’ to traffic control rooms and are illuminated during times of congestion, directing traffic from the motor way’s entry-ramp to the hard shoulder. The illuminated studs delineate the additional lane and also guide drivers onto the main carriageway when the plus-lane system is not in use.

The first sets of Astucia ‘smart’ studs were installed in November 2004 by InterTraffic Systems B.V., the authorised distributor of Astucia in the Netherlands, on the busy A50 motorway linking Arnhem to Zwolle in the Gelderland province. The road carries an average of over 200,000 vehicles a day. A second installation is on the A44 motorway taking traffic from The Hague to a busy junction near Amsterdam’s Schiphol Airport, carrying an average of over 100,000 vehicles per day. Calculations have found shown that the management system can increase the capacity of the motorway by as much as 40%, as well as reducing accident rates.

The Dutch Ministry of Transport has commented that: “The system is performing brilliantly. We feel that it is very easy for drivers to determine when the extra lane is open or not and there this is a very effective traffic management system. Astucia’s products have proven to be able to provide a good guidance in the dark. The systems are visible at far greater distances than passively reflective systems, which influence both reaction time and driver comfort very positively. On those sites where Astucia products have been installed, a significant reduction in the accident figures has been noted.”

Marc Vissers, director of InterTraffic Systems B.V. adds: “Over the past 7 years the Dutch Road authorities have been looking at trying to increasing road capacity without adding more tarmac. The road capacity is more than adequate during most of the day, so the main solution is to use the present roads more efficiently during rush hour. Dynamic Lane Marking is a solution. The extra lane combined with reduced speeds allows traffic to travel more efficiently and the trials have proven that Astucia is up for the challenge of providing the right product with the needed reliability and durability for the authorities to rely on.”

Currently, the Department for Transport are still evaluating the installations for future use on roads in England, but Astucia's Intelligent Road Stud technology is currently under trial on Scotland’s busiest motorway, the M8 between Glasgow and Edinburgh. The “smart” studs have been fitted to a 3 kilometre stretch of Scotland’s busiest motorway, linked with traffic speed collection data to provide feedback to road users of approaching hazards.

The chosen trial site chosen is on the approach to Junction 6 on the west-bound section of the M8, a busy and fog-prone section of motorway which each day is used by an average of 51,000 vehicles. In the event of a bad weather, an incident or queuing traffic, control units automatically relay instructions to the appropriate strings of Intelligent Road Studs.

The activated studs then flash to provide hazard warning to approaching traffic. The System performs intelligent queue tracking so that only the strings of studs upstream of any slow moving or stationary traffic are activated.

“Astucia’s prime aim is to provide smart, safe and sustainable technology, to provide motorists with advance warning of a hazard” says Astucia Managing Director Martin Rodgers. “In the M8 trial the increased brightness of the Astucia studs guide motorists safely through reduced visibility caused by fog or mist and by flashing, the studs alert drivers to a traffic jam or an accident further on, providing round-the-clock reassurance to drivers. But that is just one exciting project. In over 120 installations around the UK, we’re already proving our intelligent road studs lead to fewer accidents and therefore save lives.”

Astucia’s core product technology is the Intelligent Road Stud containing LEDs (Light-Emitting Diodes) powered by solar cells and batteries to collect and conserve energy in each road stud. The LEDs are automatically activated during the dusk to dawn period; conventional reflectors are also contained in the stud housing to provide daytime road delineation. These Intelligent Road Studs extend the night-time 'view' of the road, when compared with the traditional reflective type, from around 90 metres to over 900 metres.

Other products have grown from that first idea including studs that warn of impending hazards such as fog, ice and surface water to form traffic management systems. Astucia also sells a range of portable studs which can be deployed by motorists and the emergency services around vehicles at road-side situations.

Astucia’s vision is to reduce casualties and fatalities on roads throughout the world and to reduce congestion by safely increasing the capacity and effectiveness of road networks.

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