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New technology for road safety

3 min

Lux Express, together with the Estonian Road Administration and AS Teede Tehnokeskus are developing a real-time mapping program to ensure more efficient road maintenance and increase road safety.

Lux Express has always been at the forefront when it comes to safety. The company is one of the few on the roads promoting use of seatbelts and has made these as comfortable as possible to use on the company's coaches. They also have security requirements for the transportation of pets. It is no wonder that for the past three years they have been working with the Estonian Road Administration and AS Teede Tehnokeskus on a project to develop a real-time mapping program to ensure more efficient road maintenance and increase road safety.

Andrei Stsimborski, the fleet operations manager at Lux Express explains that sensors attached to coaches are used for this. Sensors detect slippery road conditions and heavy snowfall on the road and automatically send an appropriate warning to the road maintenance companies who then must react quickly. In addition, Lux Express’ dispatchers use the system to inform other coach drivers of changing road conditions to make the traffic situation even safer.

Testing started already in 2016 with just one sensor that measured the road conditions for the coaches on Tallinn–Riga, Tallinn–Vilnius and Tallinn–St. Petersburg routes. Since autumn 2019 there have been six sensors – all working on Estonian intercity roads. Since autumn, two coaches equipped with a sensor have been monitoring Tallinn–Tartu route, two coaches on Tallinn–Riga and Tallinn–St. Petersburg routes, and two coaches are running on all roads connecting Estonia's major cities. “In addition we are sending pictures of the road conditions once in a minute to Teede Tehnokeskus AS,” Stsimborski adds.

How do the sensors work?

The sensor is essentially a camera that collects data once every second (at 90 km/h that is every 25 metres), can measure air temperature and road surface temperature, and detect whether the road surface is dry, wet, slippery, snowy or icy. In case of a wet road, the device can also measure depth of the water. Collected data is forwarded via the website to the Estonian Road Administration. The web environment provides a good overview of the current state of the road and allows personnel to make the decisions needed to organise road maintenance. In addition, the Estonian Road Administration broadcasts warnings to road users if necessary.

To prevent the sensor from getting dirty or damaged, it is mounted inside a long pipe, and is attached to the bottom of the coach. This helps to avoid any human error that can occur as a result of mechanical intervention, since the driver never has to do anything with the device.

In addition, there is a separate camera installed on the coaches, which also takes pictures of road conditions at regular intervals. Currently, a ready-to-use image transfer solution is working on one coach – that on which the first sensor was installed. It takes images at five-minute intervals. “In the near future, we plan to start collecting images from other coaches equipped with a sensor and a camera. Consideration will also be given to the possibility of capturing images from all coaches equipped with a camera,” says Märt Puust, project manager at Teede Tehnokeskus AS, who looks forward to the future. “For example, we can evaluate whether and where snow needs to be dealt with, whether or not anti-slip is needed, and how much salt is needed [on the roads],” he explains.

Author: Kärt Rosenfeld