FLIR camera system making road near Durham safer

ITS (UK) member FLIR ITS has delivered a unique collision avoidance system on a staggered junction near the city of Durham using its TrafiOne® thermal sensors – helping change driver behaviour and reduce the number of collisions to zero.

The staggered crossroad on the B6532 in Durham has proved to be a serious accident hotspot. Between 2012 and 2017 alone, one fatal, two serious, and six non-injury collisions have been reported.

After initial on-site consultation with the Durham CC Highways Team, the company Westcotec proposed to build a Collision Avoidance System using the latest above-ground thermal detection sensor, coupled with electronic warning signs.

The staggered junction on the B6532 now features two electronic signs – one in each direction – with warning triangles, corner amber flashers and a message that reads, “TURNING TRAFFIC” beneath. The electronic signs warn motorists of the potential hazards at the crossroads, but only when vehicles on the side roads are waiting to cross or want to join the main road.

Two above-ground thermal detectors from FLIR detect vehicles waiting at the stop line on the side roads or vehicles waiting to turn right off the main road. Upon detection, a signal is sent to the electronic signs, which puts the signalisation into action. One thermal camera can cover the entire waiting area at the junction, resulting in only two cameras being required, overall. The system has proven to be very effective. More than two years after the installation, not a single collision has been reported.

The system uses two FLIR TrafiOne thermal sensors, all-in-one smart city sensors that can detect vehicles 24/7, even in adverse weather or low-light conditions.

The warning sign will only display when two conditions are met. First, the display’s integrated radar must detect oncoming vehicles on the main road. Second, the thermal sensors on the side roads must detect vehicles waiting to cross or enter the roadway. However, the warning sign can also be programmed to respond to vehicles on the main road exceeding a set speed limit. Even if there are no vehicles waiting to cross, the system provides a timely warning to drivers on the main road, alerting them of potential hazards, should any waiting vehicles emerge.

Operating only when vehicles approach from the side roads, rather than when a vehicle is detected on the main road, saves valuable solar energy and avoids needless operation when no oncoming vehicles are present. In addition, the dynamic nature of the installation also increases the visual impact of the warning sign.

“Warning signs are effective in enhancing driver awareness and impacting on their behaviour in ways that reduce risk of collisions,” said Sukhdev Bhogal, Business Development Director at FLIR Systems. “However, traditional, continuously flashing warning signals have a reduced effect, because motorists do not receive a real stimulus to change driving behaviour. This is not the case with detection-based warning signs, which can be activated based on the detected hazardous conditions.”

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