Engineering 101

Watch: Next-Gen Stop Sign Could Reduce Rural Road Accidents

By Ruth Seeley

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A multi-pixel passive infrared sensor that recognizes vehicles as they approach intersections could reduce collisions on rural roads. The low-cost, self-powered warning system detects vehicles and triggers the stop sign’s flashing system with a signal beacon. Powered by small solar panels, the system doesn’t rely on the grid and functions in all weather conditions.

“The sensor observes thermal signatures and processes them to detect passing vehicles,” said Zachary Balcar, a master’s student in the UTSA Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering. “It distinguishes the vehicle’s direction of travel, estimates the velocity of its thermal signature and determines the classification of the vehicle.”

Without traffic signals and active signage, accidents on rural roads make up 54% of all traffic fatalities according to Federal Highway Administration figures and two and a half times the number of fatalities in urban areas. Seventy percent of roads are rural, but, “Stop signs on rural roads are difficult to notice, and this leads to dangerous accidents,” said Ayetullah Biten, a doctoral candidate in the UTSA Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering.

With a 90% vehicle detection rate and 72% vehicle classification accuracy, the smart stop sign is more accurate, consumes less power, and is significantly cheaper to produce than current road safety technology, including magnetic loop inductors, video image processors, and microwave radar. Compare USTA’s $60 to $100 per unit costs to as much $5000 for current safety systems.

The sensor can potentially be adapted for pedestrian detection, border security, and vehicle-to-infrastructure communication, and has been nationally by the American Road and Transportation Builders Association.

“We look to improve the safety of rural intersections and potentially save lives.” There has been at least one fatality every day on a Texas road since November 7, 2000, according to the Texas Department of Transportation.

Source:  University of Texas at San Antonio

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