As per data from the Fatality Analysis Reporting System (FARS), maintained by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), rural vehicle fatality rates are more than urban vehicle fatality rates. As per the Federal Highway Administration, the U.S. byways account for 70% of the rural roads and 54% of all fatalities occurs on these roads. These roads still lack adequate power supply and network signals, leading to more accidents.

Drivers in the urban areas often ignore the stop signs, which are intended to control the traffic and guide the drivers to look for other vehicles. Moreover, the usage of mobile or infotainment systems while driving further leads to accidents.

There is a need to reduce the increase in road fatalities caused by ignorance of road signs, poor visibility, and inefficient traffic management. These challenges can be addressed with the help of efficient systems that detect vehicle movements and improve the visibility of the road signs so that the drivers can see, understand and then proceed to avoid any fatalities.

Researchers from different companies and universities are trying to address this challenge by developing systems enabled by sensors. For instance, researchers from The University of Texas at San Antonio (UTSA) are developing a solar-powered, low-cost thermal system that will help identify the approaching vehicles and improve the visibility of road signs. According to the university, this system will help reduce on road accidents.

Professors from UTSA have developed a low-cost warning and detection system that uses a multi-pixel passive infrared sensor to alert rural drivers about potential dangers at intersections. The multi-pixel technology helps detect complex objects in near range with high accuracy. This further helps the sensor to deduce the range of the vehicle from the intersection. Once the vehicle approaches the sensing range, the beacon in the system triggers the flash on the road stop sign, further catching the driver’s attention towards the sign and guiding him/her to lower the vehicle speed.

The passive infrared sensors in the system observe the vehicle’s thermal signature and process data such as vehicle direction and determine the vehicle classification by estimating its velocity. The system has 72% accuracy for vehicle classification and 90% accuracy for vehicle detection. According to the researchers, the system consumes less power and provide better accuracy as compared to conventional systems such as microwave radars, video image processors, and magnetic loop indicators.

A company called Perfect Squares has developed an intercommunication system called PerfectStop Sign (PSS) to reduce road accidents and improve the visibility stop signs in urban areas. The company has developed an interactive audio and video warning system to reduce human error while driving and keep negligent driving under control. The system is developed for 2-way and 4-way intersections and roundabouts. The company has employed motion sensor technology to detect the flow of traffic with respect to distance and speed. The system is solar powered with an efficient control system which supports the processing of the incoming data from the intersection, LED lighting (red, next and green just like the conventional traffic lights), and speakers to provide notification to the drivers and pedestrians. The intercommunication system communicates with other systems to determine the precise flow of traffic without causing accidents. The company is currently working towards generating fund for mass production and has opted for the crowdfunding route.

Automo believes that the company has produced the viable product for market commercialization, but it is difficult for the company to experience the mass adoption unless the company proves its ability to scale on the long term basis. As the automotive and transportation industry is going through the massive transformation i.e. from electric to connected to an autonomous vehicle. There is a need for this system to communicate with the car and the driver sitting inside. This will further help the system to grow and witness mass success across the different market.

Connected and autonomous vehicles are the next big thing in the automotive industry. And all the developments in the market should be aimed at taking the autonomous vehicles from concept to reality. It is crucial for the autonomous vehicle to understand the road signs. To explain to the vehicle about the road signs and what needs to be done is not a small task and this will require a lot of annotations and data points.

If external systems communicate with the vehicle and driver, this task will become very easy and it will take less amount of time for autonomous vehicles to become a reality. Thus, all the developments in the automotive and transportation domain should have the ability to scale and support the development of autonomous vehicles. This will further help the companies to be successful in the market.

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