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Augmented Reality Sensor Web for the Road: Real-Time Ice Location

The VTT Technical Research Centre of Finland has developed an interesting take on vehicle based road sensor webs. Like with most such systems it relies on networked sensors placed in each vehicle on the road. Unlike the vast majority of such systems however, this one concentrates mainly on the heavy traffic – large lorry loads.

This is much more manageable and practical for initial deployment than trying to fit sensors to every single household car and van. In addition, for the purpose of this particular sensor web, any ice that causes problems for a heavy goods vehicle is an automatic priority for highway maintenance – as lighter vehicles will react with much less control to the same icy patches.


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The sensors fitted to the underside of heavy goods vehicles, notify both the driver and the central control station at VTT at the same time. So the driver is instantly alerted to the presence of ice under their wheels even as they start to slide – and can compensate knowing that ice is there. At the same time VTT is alerted to the problem, and the severity of the problem. They automatically let highway maintenance know where it is and the severity of the problem, for highway maintenance to use their own network, and locate the closest gritting truck to take care of it.

As an additional incentive for companies to use the new system, it has been designed right from the start, to interface with any company's sensors, including those used for other sensor nets. This feature is of course absolutely critical if we are to get road sensor networks into common use on all roads, or even just those roads that are in Finland. Provided the sensor system or computer system already on-board the truck can connect to the vehicle's own data bus, it can connect to the VTT system. Likewise, if the truck has a terminal on-board, like for example a dashboard computerised navigation system, the researchers state that their system will be able to connect to it as an additional data source (again via the vehicle's internal data bus).

The new system, which is not yet commercialised, also works with an on-board GPS if the car has one (any satellite navigation system will provide one). If one is not fitted, then one will have to be added, again to the car's general data bus. Current work is being directed towards increasing the number of communication channels between the system and the driver, with direct communication between the vehicle and smart phones, the national media, weather forecasts or roadside signs all being considered.

A second version of the system is also planned, to fit to family cars instead of heavy goods vehicles. Initially this would function only as a receiving station, receiving ice reports from heavy goods vehicles that have passed the same way recently, however long-term the hope is to make these report their status as well. It is not currently clear how this would be achieved, as unlike HGVs, many family cars lack an on-board vehicle data bus as standard.

References

VTT’s technology makes driving on black ice safer

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