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Self-Powered Road Signs

According to statistics from the United States Department of Transportation, over half of fatal accidents on American roads occur in rural areas. In addition, many accidents in the US occur on rural byways. The US Federal Highway Administration says rural roads account for 70 percent of the nation’s byways and the location for 54 percent of all fatalities

To provide a solution, the University of Texas at San Antonio (with support from the Connect program, a collaborative research program between the UTSA and Southwest Research Institute) developed smart road signs that flash when sensors detect a vehicle. These smart road signs use small solar panels to power themselves, meaning that they can be placed in urban and rural byways without power lines.

Smart road signs use multi-pixel passive infrared sensors to detect approaching vehicles with 90% accuracy. They can even distinguish a vehicle’s direction of travel and estimate its velocity. What’s more, they can identify the vehicle type with 72% accuracy. The set up costs for smart road signs are less than those of traffic-sensing technologies used in urban areas.

Now that the American Road & Transportation Builders Association has approved the system nationwide, the project team has set its sights on applying the technology in pedestrian detection systems, border security, and communications between vehicles and infrastructure.

The low-cost, self-powered nature of the smart road signs means that they are also likely to become popular outside of the US, raising safety for both pedestrians and drivers.

2019.04.18