Solar Powered ‘Smart Stop Sign’ Developed To Curb Rural Traffic Crashes
A low-cost, self-powered, intersection detection and warning system to alert rural motorists about potential dangers has the potential to improve driver safety and save lives, according to engineers at The University of Texas at San Antonio (UTSA) who developed and are testing the new thermal technology.
The warning system, which was announced earlier this month, was designed to detect vehicles and improve the visibility of stop signs. It runs on solar power and is installed on stop signs. It is an important safety innovation, the engineers noted, as according to the U.S. Department of Transportation, more than half of the road crash deaths nationally occur on rural road. And without access to a power supply, rural roads are more likely than others to lack signals and active traffic signage.
“Stop signs on rural roads are difficult to notice, and this leads to dangerous accidents,” Ayetullah Biten, a doctoral candidate in the UTSA Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering, said in a statement.
The “smart stop sign” uses a multi-pixel passive infrared sensor that detects a vehicle as it approaches an intersection. When the vehicle is within range, a signal beacon triggers the stop sign’s flashing system.
Compared to current traffic sensing technologies in urban areas, the new system consumes less power, is much less expensive to produce, and offers better accuracy, the engineers said. (The “smart” system, they said, has a 90 % accuracy rate for vehicle detection.)
“Our off-roadway system can be installed on urban or rural roads completely independent of the utility power grid, because it is powered by small solar panels and functions in all weather conditions,” Sara Ahmed, a professor in the UTSA College of Engineering and one the system’s creators, said in a statement.
The project team expects to adapt the “smart stop sign” technology for other uses, including pedestrian detection, vehicle-to-infrastructure communication, and exportation to countries with limited access to power grids.
The potential international reach has wide-ranging implications, Natalie Draisin, the North American director for the FIA Foundation, a nonprofit based in London, told Forbes.
“Low-cost innovations are important to improve road safety, particularly as 90% of road traffic fatalities occur in low- and middle- income countries.”
But it is also important to remain focused on existing solutions, like monitoring speed.
“Around the world, we know that prominent signs encourage safer driving, but they must be coupled with proven infrastructure measures, and consistent enforcement to end the 1.35 million roads deaths each year.”