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‘INTRO’ – co-operative systems for intelligent roads

While numerous and varied European research projects are now focused on improving road safety, much of their work is still being carried out in isolation. The result is repetition, lost time and productivity and wasted resources. The INTRO project is responding to the problem, integrating existing and novel technologies and developing co-operative systems for road safety and management.

Night traffic © Peter Gutierrez
© Peter Gutierrez

For many, road fatalities constitute the biggest problem facing Europe today, the greatest threat to public safety, and one of the direst catastrophes in history; every year, more than 50 000 EU citizens people are killed as a result of road accidents. In any other context, the loss of so many lives would constitute a major disaster.

Rising to the challenge

The EU-funded INTRO (‘Intelligent roads’) project aims to address the dual problems of road safety and increasing road capacity, bringing together information from the latest sensing and real-time networking technologies. The aim is to provide rapid warning of emerging problems to both maintenance authorities and road users.

INTRO calls for increased co-operation between road authorities, national road research institutes, private engineering companies and the road industry. In particular, co-operation between car manufacturers and public bodies will be a strategic key for the development of tools to benefit industry and the community at large.

Specific INTRO aims include:

  • Assessing current road safety and road capacity technologies, strategies and knowledge;
  • Data fusion, bringing together in situ sensor data and vehicle sensor data within common data bases;
  • Evaluation of in situ and vehicle-based sensors and development of ‘smarter’ roads and intelligent vehicles for monitoring pavement conditions;
  • Development and validation of novel concepts and systems for monitoring and predicting road friction and skid resistance;
  • Development of other new and improved methods for traffic and safety monitoring;
  • Structured clustering activities with other FEHRL projects and targeted activities to disseminate project results.

INTRO activity areas

Intelligent road systems: current knowledge and implementation strategies

Car crash
What we don’t want
© Peter Gutierrez

Rather than developing completely new technologies, INTRO will first focus on better use of existing technologies. Thus, its first task will be to review existing practice in the form of previous and ongoing studies and deployments. Because the project's outputs will be mainly targeted at road authorities and operators, a comprehensive overview of the needs of these stakeholders is particularly important.

This ‘horizontal’ activity will provide a report on the state-of-the-art in intelligent roads, bringing together previous experience and including an analysis of user needs based on a survey of road operators. Scenarios and short-term trends will be identified and analysed and future ‘visions’ will be developed considering technology trends, financial constraints and other elements. Towards the end of the project, potential implementation strategies will also be considered.

Novel concepts and methods for surface safety monitoring

Drivers are generally unable to perceive low-friction road sections. Although modern cars equipped with ‘stability programmes’ can provide warnings, translating friction values into understandable information for automobile drivers, they cannot warn drivers of other cars nor inform road maintenance authorities.

INTRO aims to develop systems to provide real-time information on skid resistance (friction) to both road authorities and drivers. This activity focuses on combining micro slip-based skid warning technologies and ‘static’ geo-referenced road data. New system concepts will be tested under both winter and summer conditions. Driver behaviour under a variety of possible scenarios will be studied in a driving simulator. Towards the end of the project, full-scale tests will be undertaken near Vienna.

Monitoring pavement (road surface) condition using intelligent pavements and vehicles

The efficient operation and maintenance of road networks relies on accurate and up-to-date information on pavement condition, but, as congestion levels continue to increase, acquisition of this information must involve the least possible disruption to traffic flow.

The INTRO research strand focusing on pavement condition aims to provide new methods of predicting road deterioration in unobtrusive ways, and making this information accessible at low cost. The long-term benefits provided by this work will include the effective targeting of road maintenance, resulting in reduced traffic disruption, increased accessibility, reduced accident rates and better value for money.

Methods will be identified for combining data obtained from in situ measurements and from standard and probe vehicles, providing network managers with a more complete picture of the condition of the network.

Traffic and safety monitoring

To promote improvements in road safety, INTRO is working to identify relevant traffic performance and safety indicators and to develop methods for monitoring traffic conditions that combine multiple-source traffic and weather data. Data sources are to include loop detectors, cameras and floating cars; using traffic simulation, driving simulators and analytical methods. The outcome will be improved prediction of traffic conditions and evaluation of traffic safety.

Targeted results

The INTRO project will share its research results with other European partners, organising meetings and training seminars to provide useful support to road users and operators.

Looking to the future, partners say intelligent roads will mean an increased demand for intelligent tyres and they look forward to intensified dialogue and collaboration with the European tyre industry.

As the EU moves towards its Seventh Research Framework Programme, the emphasis is increasingly on the interaction between various interface systems: vehicle-to-infrastructure (v2i); vehicle-to-vehicle (v2v); and vehicle-to-‘all’ (v2x). Standardisation of these key interfaces is likely to become a requirement for EU-funded projects. Therefore, it is crucial that stakeholders now define their v2v, v2i and v2x needs.