Drivers Beware!

25/06/2014

Again and again, drivers heading in the wrong direction cause serious accidents. Although the number of wrong-way accidents is relatively limited, their consequences are typically much more severe than those of other types of crashes. Dr. Dirk Kemper and Tobias Volkenhoff now have developed a warning system with which to address the problem of so-called wrong-way driving.

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  A driver in a car simulator Copyright: Peter Winandy Dr. Dirk Kemper from the Institute of Highway Engineering, ISAC for short, is testing the newly developed warning system tackling the problem of “wrong-way driving.”

According to the German automotive club ADAC, wrong-way driving can typically attributed to one of the following reasons: impaired driving due to alcohol or drugs, suicidal intentions, inattentiveness, poor visibility conditions, or confusing road markings or signage.

For this reason, in collaboration with Wilhelm Schröder GmbH and the Institute of Communication Networks at TU Dortmund University, ISAC is working on an electronic detection and warning system using radio technologies. The research project receives funding from the Federal Ministry of Economic Affairs and Energy in the SME Central Innovation Program.

As Kemper explains, in an attempt to reduce the number of accidents thus caused, some countries, such as Austria, have added conspicuous signs at highway ramps to prevent drivers from using the wrong exit or entry ramps. But this measure has not proved sufficient to markedly reduce accidents. As Volkenhoff adds, “so far, there is no comprehensive automated security system.”

Sensors Detect Cars Heading the Wrong Way

The new detection system has a simple design and uses radio tomography. “Radio modules in six delineator posts create a "detection field" which makes it possible to identify the driving direction of vehicles. If the system is triggered by a car heading the wrong way, it can send a message to the police right away,” explained Kemper. Furthermore, the system, which is driven by solar power, is cost-efficient, low-maintenance, very robust, and it can withstand severe weather conditions.

Kemper explains the advantages of the new warning system as follows: “The decisive advantage of the system is that it saves time.” Typically, it takes three to four minutes from the receipt of the emergency call to broadcasting the warning via TMC, the traffic message channel used by the radio stations. The average distance driven by a car in this period of time is over 5.5 kilometers. With the new system, the warning can be broadcast after 7 seconds.

The system triggers several warning mechanisms: first, an LED lamp integrated in the delineator posts flashes in order to give a signal to the driver. Furthermore, the warning is send to the TMC and broadcast by the radio stations. In addition, it is possible for the system to send text messages that can be received by an app. As Volkenhoff sums up, “in this way, the system makes use of multiple communication channels.”