Designing next generation 'cat's eyes' (road studs)

Intelligent "cat's eyes"

Dr Shumao Ou and Dr Peter Ball from the Computing and Communication Technologies Department are working - as part of a Knowledge Transfer Partnership - in collaboration with Clearview Traffic, a company based in Bicester specialising in products that improve driving safety and automated traffic counting to reduce road congestion. Together they are developing a new cat's eye that will improve road safety and give feedback on road conditions. Here, they give an outline of the project:

"One of the Clearview Traffic products is a solar powered, light emitting road stud that provides improved lane delineation. This product has been used in many countries and has significantly reduced the occurrence of road accidents. Look out for them when you next drive along a motorway – you will notice them as they shine brightly well ahead of regular cat's eyes which rely on the reflection from vehicle headlights.

The ultimate goal is to be able to use the information gained from the sensors to give motorists advance warning of adverse conditions on the road ahead.

Dr Shumao Ou and Dr Peter Ball, Computing and Communication Technologies Department

The aim of this project is to design and develop next generation intelligent road studs. These studs will include wireless transceivers that will allow them to 'talk' to each other, so that information from sensors built into the studs can be passed along the road and then to a roadside controller.

The objective is for the upstream link to inform a controller about road conditions and real time traffic flow and the downstream link to enable the road stud lighting to be controlled to adjust lane markings to manage traffic flow. The ultimate goal is to be able to use the information gained from the sensors to give motorists advance warning of adverse conditions on the road ahead.

Wireless communication avoids the cost and the potential damage to the road associated with feeding wires under the road to the studs. However, this is a challenging environment for radio communication because the radio path will be obstructed by the ground and passing vehicles. Moreover, the energy available for communication and lighting is restricted to the amount that can be harvested from the solar cells and must operate throughout the year even when the amount of daylight is limited. We will work closely with the Clearview Traffic engineers and use their knowledge of the design of low energy wireless systems to develop robust communications between road studs."