Innovative sensors for highway management

smartmicro’s sensors improve road safety through data collection and incident management, helping to detect events such as slow-moving traffic, wrong-way driving and sudden lane changes

This article was originally published in Traffic Technology International (TTI) Magazine (September 2022). You can preview the original version here (click).

Did you know that according to the US Transportation Research Board about 9% of all vehicle crashes on highways are secondary to another incident?
Considering that the annual highway statistics by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration estimate over 5,215,000 non-fatal crashes in the US and report that 38,824 people died on US roads, technology detecting incidents can have a major impact on enhancing road safety. There are different incidents frequently occurring on highways, which need to be detected to avoid danger. Featuring the most advanced ultra high definition (4D/UHD) technology smartmicro sensors directly measure the range, speed, and azimuth angle of all vehicles in real time – even in complex conditions. smartmicro sensors detect incidents and then send trigger messages to variable message signs and the traffic control center to inform immediate countermeasures.
Slow-moving or even stopped vehicles in driving lanes or on hard shoulder of a highway due to traffic jams, accidents, or vehicle breakdowns are common. To avoid rear-end collisions, smartmicro sensors provide lane-specific data of each vehicle on up to 10 lanes in both driving directions. In case a vehicle’s speed falls below a customer-defined speed threshold, an instant alert to the traffic control center can be triggered to cause an appropriate response.
For example, the lane can be closed immediately via variable message signs to prevent  rear-impact crashes or vehicles queuing up behind the stopped one. The sensor also detects sudden speed changes, which are often an indication of possible incidents.

Another type of incident is wrong-way driving. As smartmicro sensors are accurately detecting not only the speed but also the driving direction, they can instantly notify the traffic control room by giving the exact location of a vehicle moving in the wrong direction. The dangers can then be reduced by managing the situation, for example by triggering variable signs in real-time and immediately sending a police escort to secure the situation.

It is important to know the particular challenges of wrong-way driving detection for choosing the right technology. Since a large proportion of wrong-way crashes occur from midnight to 5:00am, the detection system needs to be usable during the night. Based on radar, which is the most robust sensing technology, smartmicro sensors are not affected by bad light conditions or other critical environments like dirt, smog, wind or sandstorms. Therefore, they have unaffected high performance throughout the night as well as during critical light conditions like sundown and sunrise.

Due to the forward-firing principle of smartmicro sensors, vehicles remain inside the field of view for a longer time while their position and speed are measured and tracked accurately. This enables precise monitoring of vehicle trajectories and the detection of unexpected events like sudden lane changes.