Recently, we were involved in an intersection collision after attending an industry training seminar for GenX Security. When our light was green, a driver with a red light drove through the intersection and nearly totaled our brand new vehicle. Thankfully, there were no fatalities, only serious soreness for weeks following.
Considering that humans still make decisions that technology tells us not to (such as running red lights) can a combination of surveillance camera technology with computer vision recognition systems, wireless communication, infrastructure control systems, and in-vehicle telematics and alert systems to make a "smart intersection" prevent or eliminate intersection collisions, which make up about 20% of all accident fatalities per year? As featured in digitaltrends.com, Honda is making a serious go at finding out in a test smart intersection located in Ohio.
The most challenging aspects of creating smarter, safer cities can be witnessed at any street corner. That’s where, to coin a phrase, the rubber meets the road, because that’s where, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, roughly 20 percent of accident fatalities occur every year. And if you want to create a smart city, the best way to start is by saving lives.
Out in Marysville, Ohio, the town is working with the state’s department of transportation and Honda, which has manufacturing and research facilities in Marysville, to figure out exactly how to make intersections safer by making them smarter. The town of 23,912 just debuted its first smart intersection this month, and it involves more than just wiring a street corner for pictures and sound. Wireless communication systems, computer vision recognition systems, infrastructure control systems, and in-vehicle telematics and alert systems all have to be coordinated.
“Our vision of a smart intersection is one that can have non-connected road users — pedestrians, cyclists — work with those that are connected, like connected cars,” Ted Klaus, vice president of strategic research at Honda R&D Americas, explained in an interview with Digital Trends.
That means tracking those “non-connected” users and controlling the elements that can be controlled using technology — such as cars, traffic lights, and signaling systems — to save the things that can’t be controlled by technology — like people walking across the street.
OUTFITTING THE INTERSECTION WITH SMART TECH
The Marysville project comprises just one intersection now, outfitted with four high-resolution video cameras taking in a 300-foot bird’s eye view and using Honda’s object-recognition software. The last element is perhaps the most sophisticated part of the system. Computer systems can easily detect objects but it takes more than detection for the system to work.
Each and every object moving in and around the intersection has to not only be seen but also recognized as, say, a pedestrian, dog, cyclist, or car. After such so-called classification, the system then has to be able to predict the object’s behavior: Is that a person who is about run across the street or a cyclist who is going to stop for the red light?
When, say, a car that is about to run a red light is detected, the intersection system transmits a warning to other drivers approaching the intersection, allowing them to virtually see around corners or other obstructions and brake to avoid a collision. The current system uses DSRC (dedicated short range communications) to communicate with the cars — so-called vehicle-to-everything or V2X communications. Each vehicle needs to be equipped with a special system to recognize DSRC messages and then display warnings in a car’s head-up display (HUD).
“You need to control the lights for emergency vehicles,” Klaus said, and warn other drivers around of, say, an approaching ambulance. He pointed out that unlike red light camera systems, the idea behind these smart intersections is not to give out tickets but actually control the traffic.
HOW IT WORKS THROUGH EXAMPLES
The system visually detects when an emergency vehicle's light bar is activated and broadcasts that status. Nearby connected vehicles can warn the driver before the driver may see or hear the emergency vehicle.
The system visually detects pedestrians that have entered a crosswalk area. A connected vehicle can warn the driver of a pedestrian crossing, even when they are not directly within line of sight.
The system sense the speed and direction of vehicles approaching the intersection from all directions. A connected vehicle can warn the driver of a potential collision if likely to occur, such as in a red-light-runner scenario.
The particular intersection in Marysville chosen for the pilot programs was selected because researchers were looking for a “a representative intersection where there were visual obstructions and enough chaos to distract drivers,” Klaus explained. You cannot see around the corners at the Marysville location, for example. By choosing such a challenging spot, the researchers hope to apply the lessons learned in the smaller town to bigger cities like nearby Columbus, which has an extensive smart city program underway.
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