Road traffic accidents could be vastly reduced thanks to ‘connected’ sensors

Road traffic accidents in rural areas with poor visibility could be vastly reduced thanks to ‘connected’ sensors which warn motorists of obstacles in just five milliseconds.

Travelling around a sweeping country lane can be a perilous experience with the driver never knowing what is on the other side of the bend.

But car maker SEAT is working on a solution by developing a drone that detects potential hazards in the road and ‘talks’ to the vehicle, which instantly alerts the driver on the dashboard.

Clever sensors and cameras within the drone detect an object, moving or stationary, and automatically photograph it – with the image sent to a ‘Multi-Access Edge Computing’ server.

The MEC server uses artificial vision software to analyse the image and determine whether the obstacle, such as a cyclist, could pose a safety issue.

Once the data is analysed, it sends an alert to the connected vehicle and an alarm appears on the car’s instrument panel – warning the driver there is a cyclist ahead and they must proceed with caution.

The whole process from detecting the obstacle to conveying the information on the car’s screen takes just five milliseconds.

Humans, in comparison, generally take about 150 milliseconds to react to touch, sight and smell – making the potentially life-saving technology 30 times faster than the naked eye.

It is being trialled in Robledillo de la Jara [CORR], a remote Spanish village with 90 inhabitants, in an attempt to provide drivers with a ‘sixth sense’ so they can prevent accidents.

SEAT, which is working on the project with a number of technology and communications companies, has now released a video of the clever science in action.

The video shows the drone detecting a parked car and a cyclist.

It sends the information to the cellular network, which sends a warning sign onto the instrument panel of the SEAT Ateca.

César de Marco, Head of 5G connected car at SEAT, said:

“We’ve seen how the car is able to communicate with its surroundings in the city, and now in rural areas, too. “In this pilot test we added a drone that sends the information to the cellular network, which sends it to the vehicle, and the driver can see the information displayed on the instrument panel. “What we aim to do is employ technology for the benefit of road safety. “Drones will protect areas where there is poor visibility or that are difficult to access.”

The trial in rural Spain follows tests of 5G connected cars in urban environments.

Hardware like infrared cameras, sensors and beacons were embedded into local infrastructure to communicate with a car.

Sensors were fitted at traffic lights and pedestrians crossings which could ‘talk’ to cars to make the driver aware someone was about to cross the road.

More than half of all traffic casualties in Europe involve the most vulnerable users – cyclists, pedestrians and motorcycle riders.

In excess of 2,000 cyclists die every year in Europe, with 250,000 sustaining injuries.

It has been estimated by the International 5G Automotive Association that the risk of accidents can be reduced by 69 per cent with the future implementation of 5G technology.


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