The Department of Transport reveals that in 2017, there were 174,510 road casualties in the UK alone — 27,010 of which resulted in fatal or severe injuries. Although this figure represents a 5% decrease from the previous year’s statistic, it is still a worrisome reality of day-to-day life. The still significant number of road accidents, even in the most developed places in the world, has forced society’s most creative scientific minds to come up with new and novel solutions for improving road safety. Many of these new solutions are based on the Internet of Things (IoT), a concept which mainly refers to objects that can exchange, interpret, and execute data via built-in connections to the Internet.

The IoT began with everyday objects like refrigerators or air conditioners being connected to the web for convenient control via a smartphone. Realising the IoT’s potential for larger and more important applications, today’s engineers have began to develop and launch new advances in road safety powered by these same technological developments.

In the US, the Carniquez Bridge in the San Francisco Bay Area is an example of how IoT tech can actually prevent road disasters. Working with the government, the Center for Wireless Integrated MicroSensing and Systems equipped the bridge with strain gauges, tri-axis accelerometers, as well as various other sensors. Together, these can determine the bridge’s structural integrity as well as gauge its response to earthquakes and high winds. Engineers can then use this data to decide whether or not the bridge needs to be closed or repaired — thereby lessening the risks of any unforeseen accidents.

Meanwhile, a French IoT company called HIKOB is developing road sensor technology focused on measuring road temperature, vehicular volume, humidity, and other factors that affect traffic. Authorities are hoping to use this type of data to predict possible road hazards, divert traffic, and optimise the use of resources when responding to any incidents. HIKOB’s tech is currently being developed and tested in the French city of Troyes.

In Latin America, one company is turning regular cars into smart cars using IoT tech. Jooycar plugs small diagnostic devices into cars and programs them via the owner’s smartphone through an app. The system tells car owners when their vehicle needs repairs and even uses AI to process driving data. It can tell you how to improve your driving and predict how likely you are to be involved in an accident. In case one occurs, however, Jooycar instantly notifies insurance companies via the app-based system, facilitating the efficient processing of insurance claims.

Moreover, government-mandated electronic logging devices (ELDs) are already changing the way interstate delivery trucks run routes throughout the United States. IoT-enabled ELDs were originally used mainly for logging manpower hours to avoid driver exhaustion. Now, it’s been developed to include a number of road safety and efficiency features that truck drivers and fleet managers can directly access via the ELD app on their smartphones. Verizon Connect reports that these features include a fleet-tracking software for optimising delivery routes, and even a system that teaches rookie drivers how to brake efficiently and save on petrol. The devices pick up on unsafe driving habits like speeding or sudden braking, which can help drivers and management improve road safety practices.

IoT technology has certainly come a long way. These new IoT-based developments in road safety are giving hope to an otherwise statistically lethal but inevitable aspect of modern life. Tech developments like those cited above can be further studied and improved for implementation here in the UK with government-led projects such as the IoTUK program. Therefore, we are likely to see more of these systems deployed in a number of major cities and countries in the years to come.

 

Written by: Carmen Sanders

 

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