Ray C. Anderson Foundation

Ray C. Anderson Foundation

Design and development of connected road studs

Context

The Ray, a charitable organisation pioneering the strongest innovations in road infrastructure, is on a mission to make highways safer, smarter and more connected. Following our previous collaboration, Innovia spotted the opportunity to take an emerging technology, the solar road stud, and make it ‘smart’, so that it was able to detect driving dangers, and produce visual signals to improve driving safety. The Ray asked Innovia to explore how to do this: Which visual signals would have the most positive influence on driving behaviour? Which system of technologies would need to be in place to enable this?

Approach

We started by analysing accident statistics, and investigating the psychology of driving, to build an understanding of the main factors influencing accidents and driving safety. Against this backdrop, we creatively explored visual cues and road stud concepts to change driver behaviour: for example, pulsing light waves down the highway cuing changes in traffic pace, red light trails behind vehicles to discourage tailgating, and amber hazard lights following drunk or impaired drivers, with an automatic alert to police. We simulated driving scenarios in a small-scale study with different driver types to optimise light colours and sequences.

We simultaneously explored how the studs could sense dangers and communicate wirelessly, and quickly honed in on the system architecture that best realised the desired functionality. Designing the complex system architecture involved simulating magnetic sensors to detect vehicle movements, researching new wireless communication protocols, and defining algorithms for a predictive traffic model to identify dangers and translate them into appropriate road stud signals. Innovia also estimated cost and value per mile of deploying the system. The team of designers, engineers, physicists and behavioural scientists worked iteratively to reach an effective and feasible system design.

Impact

The resulting solution was an innovative road stud system, and The Ray has since made several patent applications based on our work. Innovia created animations and prototyped a set of road studs to demonstrate how the visual signals could improve driving safety. These prototypes will facilitate further experimentation with different visual cues for future systems. The Ray is presenting Innovia’s work to government transport departments and industry-leading manufacturers to make this concept a reality, and aims to initiate a trial along a US highway. Innovia continues to support The Ray in this pursuit.

The system: a roadside control box builds a predictive traffic model based on vehicle movements to identify dangers, and light the studs accordingly.

The system: a roadside control box builds a predictive traffic model based on vehicle movements to identify dangers, and light the studs accordingly.

Left to right: sketch ideation of road stud signals, expanded view of stud components, prototype of stud unit

Left to right: sketch ideation of road stud signals, expanded view of stud components, prototype of stud unit