Engineering Minute

Engineering Minute – Smarter Stop Signs Decrease Driver Fatalities

Engineers at the University of Texas at San Antonio have built and tested a low-cost, self-powered smart stop sign that will help decrease driver fatalities in underlit rural areas by making the signs more visible to approaching drivers. According to the United States Department of Transportation, rural roads make up more than 70 percent of the nation's byways and 54 percent of fatal crashes occur on these underlit roads. The stop signs are made to detect oncoming vehicles and alert the driver of the upcoming stop. To achieve this, the smart signs use a multi-pixel infrared sensor that can detect a vehicle as it approaches. Once the vehicle is within the correct range, the smart sign triggers a flashing signal beacon to alert the driver that they are approaching an intersection. 


“The sensor observes thermal signatures and processes them to detect passing vehicles,” says Zachary Balcar, a master’s student at the University of Texas at San Antonio in the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering. “It distinguishes the vehicle’s direction of travel, estimates the velocity of its thermal signature and determines the classification of the vehicle.”



From the University of Texas at San Antonio article: "Overall, the smart system has a 90 percent vehicle detection rate and a vehicle classification accuracy of 72 percent. Compared to current traffic sensing technologies in urban areas such as magnetic loop inductors, video image processors and microwave radar, the new system consumes less power and offers better accuracy. The new technology is also much less expensive to produce. Current safety systems can cost as much as $5,000. UTSA’s detection promises to be a fraction of the price at $60 to $100 per unit."


Read more about the smart stop signs that decrease driver fatalities at the University of Texas at San Antonio