Home' Technology Review : September October 2010 Contents S6
SPECIAL ADVERTISING SECTION
www.technologyreview.com/ spain/ traffic
when they’re in the midst of it, on the road, through brightly
lit displays called variable message signs. These signs—typically
LEDs —look simple, says CEO Tony Batlló at Imago Screens,
one of the top LED sign manufacturers in the world for traffic
and for events such as sports. “In reality, the needs for traffic
[as opposed to sporting event screens] are much higher,” he
continues. “They need 100 percent security, functionality, and
performance, 24 hours a day. The reliability is crucial.”
The LEDs themselves form the base of the signs, and com-
pany engineers then carefully design the optics and the con-
trol systems to specific brightness, contrast, and luminosity,
depending on the sun conditions in a given country, and even
on a given day. “It’s important to be able to see the sign clearly,”
says Batlló. “But if it’s too bright, then it hurts your eyes and
you can’t read it.” Sensors built into the screens detect the light
conditions and modify their brightness automatically.
The sensors on the LED panels can offer additional informa-
tion to road managers. “The panel can be programmed to tell
the controller, ‘It’s raining; do you want to display a message
about rain?’ The operator can say yes or no,” explains Batlló.
“In the future, roads will have devices that can communicate
with each other in a kind of network, with cameras, sensors,
weather stations, and a network of information that will include
even the user’s vehicle on the road.”
new ways To naB B aD Drivers
As recently as 2005, Spain had one of the highest numbers of
accidents per person in western Europe. Through the use of new
technologies, the country managed to reduce deaths dramatically:
“We’ve gone down by more than half in less than five years,” says
Alberto Arbaiza, in charge of ITS projects at the Ministry of Inte-
rior’s Traffic Authority.
In speed management, standard techniques until now have
relied on fixed locations, either a cop with speed-catching radar
or a signpost that flashes a driver’s speed as he drives by. The
challenges presented by these fixed positions is that it’s relatively
easy for a passerby to slam on the brakes and then immediately
hit the accelerator.
To replace them, Grupo Cegasa has developed a system of
what’s known as section speed. This technique works by capturing
a car’s position first at one location, then at a second one down
the road, then calculating the speed that it took to traverse that
segment. The license plate numbers of speeders are captured
and sent to the authorities. “This is not only an alternative
way to measure speed, but it’s also safer, and more fair,” says
Alfonso Vazquez, international sales director, and it slows the
overall speed of the traffic.
Traffic accidents are also caused by drivers hurtling through
red lights. Today, the latest technology at intersections involves
an inductive loop under the street; as the light turns red, a car
passing over the loop triggers cameras that capture the car’s
image. Barcelona-based Quercus Technologies recently unveiled
the first system in the world that operates on a small moveable
system of cameras, which works independently from traffic
lights or traffic controllers.
Quercus has built on its experience in artificial vision—
they’re one of the top producers in the world of license-plate
recognition systems—to create a noninvasive technology. “It’s
what we call virtual loop technology,” says Silvia Vilanova,
Quercus marketing director. “All the recognition you need is
in the camera and you don’t need any sensors in the road.”
The camera faces the light and picks up on the location of
light emanating from the signal. When the light changes from
green to red, the position of that light changes, and it triggers
the camera, which snaps a series of shots as the car traverses
the intersection. This product, launched in March 2010, has a
number of added advantages: it is significantly cheaper than
the alternative, and it demands no additional street work. In
addition, research has shown that after the implementation of
a system to capture transgressors at a light, that particular inter-
section becomes safer within a year or two. But the traditional
loop-based infrastructure is prohibitively expensive to move.
Quercus’s camera, however, can be readily lifted and recalibrated
to the specifications of a new intersection.
helping TransiT see green
To help transit systems communicate with public transportation
users, Tekia engineers developed a system of predicting bus arrival
times based on on-board GPS systems. They soon realized that the
equipment could be enhanced to contain more than just a GPS unit,
and could provide infor mation beyond location. This infor mation
could reduce a driver’s fuel consumption and thus her emissions.
The Tekia system contains a small computer that monitors
the driver’s speed and acceleration, immediately comparing
these against an optimal model to encourage the driver to use
the smallest possible amount of fuel, such as slower accelera-
tion. The system is now being tested in Madrid.
“When we present this to bus operators, they’re very inter-
ested; they see that it can be translated directly into cost savings,”
says Alejandro Sanchez, business development manager. The
company estimates that the systems can pay for themselves in
fuel savings in about three to four years.
Indra offers a system for making environmental measure-
ments—of carbon dioxide and other city pollutants such as
nitric oxide— in real time and sending that information to traf-
fic managers “so that they can see if, for instance, the center
of Madrid is overwhelmed with pollution, and they can make
the decision to reroute traffic,” says Mario Hornero, manager
of Indra traffic projects in Latin America.
These environmental advances, however, are incremental
steps designed to fine-tune the current transportation system.
Many companies are designing complete transfor mations of
the way we move and power our vehicles.
Grupo Cegasa, in a partnership led by MIT, is taking part in
8/5/2010 12:36:37 PM
Links Archive July August 2010 November December 2010 Navigation Previous Page Next Page