Intelligent technology sees cars, trains ‘talk to each other’
Victoria is in the final stages of the world’s largest trial of applying a groundbreaking technology, Dedicated Short Range Communication (DSRC), at railway level crossings which allows cars and trains to talk to each other.
DSRC is one of a class of technologies used for Cooperative Intelligent Transport Systems (C-ITS) which allow vehicles to communicate with other vehicles and infrastructure and exchange information including their position, speed, direction, etc. The system is then able to calculate whether collisions are likely to occur and provides in-vehicle audible, visual and even tactile warnings to drivers in time to avoid the collision.
In the level crossing environment, The DSRC system delivers three levels of warning, graduating in urgency and volume. The first advises the driver of the vehicle of the presence of the crossing (‘there is a crossing ahead’), the second is similar to the conventional flashing light warning (‘there is a train in the vicinity’) and finally, when a collision is imminent and requires emergency action, an imperative ‘STOP - you are about to collide with a train!’ warning is emitted.
The trial’s third and final stage involves Metro Trains Melbourne, with approximately 100 road and rail vehicles (cars, trucks and trains) to be fitted with the DSRC system. The trials are occurring at two actively controlled sites on Victoria’s metropolitan Frankston line for a month.
Field trials have been designed to test the system for both active level crossings (those with train activated warnings such as flashing lights and boom gates) and passive level crossings (those with stop or give way signage) in both country and metropolitan locations.
Trials are designed to not only test the effectiveness of the technology but also drivers’ reactions to different messages. Human behavioural interviewing and evaluation of driver responses to the warnings are an integral part of the trial process.
Trial scenarios also aim to test for and minimise “false positive” warnings such as a warning being provided when a vehicle has passed the crossing, or when approaching the railway on a path which will not cross it.
The DSRC system has the potential to provide train activated warnings at nearly all level crossings, including those currently with only passive controls, but more extensive testing and the examination of wider issues around level crossing risk would need to be completed before the introduction of such a system.
Collision warning systems such as Cooperative Intelligent Transport Systems and DSRC technology have been hailed by the motor vehicle industry as the next area of major road safety innovation, following in the footsteps of seat belts, airbags and ABS systems to save lives on the roads.
The use of DSRC in motor vehicles is already being developed in Europe and the US by vehicle manufacturers and government authorities as a collision avoidance technology. A US DOT report estimated that the technology has the potential to mitigate or prevent 81% of unimpaired road vehicle crashes (approximately 3.65 million crashes per annum).
However, the deployment of DSRC technology is still subject to a number of policy and funding decisions both overseas and in Australia and as such, there is no guaranteed time frame for its implementation, which may take a number of years. A US decision on the mandating of the technology in that country is due to be made in 2013.
AUtoCRC chief executive Dr Matthew Cuthbertson said the Australian automotive industry’s AA2020 Technology Roadmap recently identified wireless vehicle communication as a key opportunity for future competitiveness and exports.
“This trial is the first of its kind, teaming an Australian world-class project team and wireless technology to demonstrate its application and benefits,” Dr Cuthbertson said.
The $5.5m, three-year project is being undertaken by Public Transport Victoria (PTV), the Automotive Cooperative Research Centre (AutoCRC), and La Trobe University’s Centre for Technology Infusion
The findings of the Intelligent Transport Systems for Safer Rail Level Crossings project will be presented at the Intelligent Transport Systems (ITS) World Congress in Vienna and the Global Level Crossing Symposium in London.
For enquiries regarding this project, please contact Peter Nelson-Furnell by email at firstname.lastname@example.org
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