- Manhole cover alarm – tire control at speed 120
- Tests on the federal highway 34
- Quartz crystal sensor in the road surface
- Insight into the interiors of passing cars
- The Lower Saxony pupillomat
Manhole cover alarm – tire control at speed 120
Stop! If you are stopped by an officer in the future, he or she may already have detailed information about the condition of your car’s tires
Source: chromorange / Matthias Stolt / CHROMORANGE
The police are upgrading and using high-tech to recognize traffic sins without having to stop cars. Anyone who races over a certain manhole cover leaves all the details about the tire condition there.
A.At first glance, the manhole cover looks like any other, gray and inconspicuous. The difference can only be seen on closer inspection: laser light-emitting diodes, a video camera and a super-fast image data computer are hidden under a tinted glass cover. With these instruments every passing car is recorded. More precisely: every tire that rolls over the high-tech manhole cover.
While the lasers scan the rubber, the camera uses a 3-D process to measure the profile depth and saves the images as soon as the legally prescribed value of 1.6 millimeters is not reached. Every driver knows what happens then: A few hundred meters behind the measuring station, a police officer waves the red and white stopping bell and asks to checkout.
Big Brother on the roadside: The police are massively arming themselves in the fight against traffic offenders, and the new type of profile measurement is by no means the only method of using high-tech to monitor motorists.
So far, the officers could only check the tire tread depth while standing and with rather primitive measuring devices. In contrast, the system of the southern German companies Procontour and Kontron works fully automatically, without contact and at lightning speed.
Tests on the federal highway 34
"The lasers scan the tire contact patch in just 2.4 milliseconds. During this time, the camera captures several images at a frequency of up to 16,000 images per second", says Ingrid Einsiedler from the electronics specialist Kontron. Thanks to this real-time measurement, the tire check should function properly even when cars roll over one of the high-tech manhole covers at 120 km / h.
To install the device, the officers only need a conventional manhole: they remove the cast iron cover and insert the precisely fitting measuring module instead. The system sends images and data to the police car by radio.
Procontour has proven that the technology works in tests on federal highway 34 near Waldshut in Baden-Wurttemberg: after all, twelve cars were stopped within four hours and then checked again in a parking lot, where the results of the laser measurements were confirmed.
The double check is necessary because the Physikalisch-Technische Bundesanstalt has not yet approved the system as an official measuring device. However, if the approval comes and the measurements have evidential value that can be used in court, the first tire tread speed cameras could soon be on the roadside after the speed and red light speed cameras.
Quartz crystal sensor in the road surface
Another control system that also works underground has been developed by the Swiss company Kistler. It is based on a quartz crystal sensor in the road surface that records the weight of passing cars. The aim is to track down overloaded trucks, buses and mobile homes that have been blamed for road and bridge damage.
The sensor is as precise as it is inconspicuous: you only have to cut an eight millimeter wide joint in the asphalt to position the sensor. As soon as cars drive over the quartz element, they generate electrical signals of varying strength, from which a computer derives the respective wheel load and ultimately the vehicle weight.
In Switzerland, Great Britain, the Netherlands and on the Dresden Loschwitz Bridge, trucks are automatically weighed in this way and flashed if overweight is prohibited.
A high-speed weighing field has also been in use in Bavaria for a few months. On the A 8 near Bad Aibling, the EU Commission is testing a whole range of new control procedures over a stretch of around three kilometers that car and truck drivers will have to reckon with in the future. Brussels is spending around eight million euros on the project "Asset Road" cost that to "Road traffic safety and economy" should contribute. The EU’s slogan is: even more controls.
This includes what is known as tracking and tracing: seven video cameras film the traffic, hold license plates and pass the data on from camera to camera. "Like a relay race", it says in the project description.
With this image tracking, police officers want to get on the track of distance and speed sinners. Your license plates are finally saved at the end of the inspection route and forwarded to the fines office together with the video recordings. The system is currently also being installed on other motorway routes.
Insight into the interiors of passing cars
The highlight of the video tracking on the A 8 is a new type of 3-D camera developed by Finnish researchers. Two lenses arranged one above the other record the spatial image of a traffic situation and thus enable an exact calculation of the distance between the cars. The speed measurement made possible by the 3-D eye can also be calibrated and has evidential value in court.
Even more: The high-resolution images offer police officers a good insight into the interiors of passing cars. Cell phone users and belt offenders are caught fully automatically and remotely. The monitoring should be ready for regular operation by the end of this year.
Drivers also have to expect Big Brother in rest areas and parking lots. When trucks, buses, mobile homes and caravans brake on the motorway in order to leave the motorway, the police point special thermal cameras at them. On bikes with poor braking performance, the images remain blue, while the colors red and orange indicate a high level of heat and thus functioning brakes.
The new measurement technology provides an initial suspicion, which is followed by further checks. The motorway police in North Rhine-Westphalia and Baden-Wurttemberg are already equipped with such thermographic cameras.
However, it is mainly the drivers that are being targeted by the investigators. In the future, police officers want to look deep into their eyes in order to prevent one of the most common causes of accidents: fatigue. The so-called pupillographic sleepiness test helps here: drivers have to put on completely darkened special glasses, in the lenses of which two infrared light points light up.
The Lower Saxony pupillomat
The task is to observe these points of light. Meanwhile, the Pupillomat, as the device is called, continuously measures the pupil diameter and vibrations using a camera integrated into the glasses and compares the results with empirically determined average values. When tired, the edge of the pupil trembles more strongly than when awake. In addition, the pupil size changes in tired people.
According to experts, such a test provides incorruptible information, because pupillary reactions are controlled by the nervous system and cannot be influenced. The catch is that the eyes need to be watched over an extended period of time. So far, the monotonous procedure on the pupillomat has lasted eleven minutes and is tiring for that reason alone.
The motorway police in Lower Saxony successfully used the Pupillomat in the previous year and found sleepy truck drivers with it. "Tired drivers are seven times more likely to have an accident", says Commissioner Jens Platen from the motorway police in Sittensen.
However, the test is voluntary and has no consequences, because as long as the drivers adhere to their prescribed driving and rest times, the police cannot forbid them to continue their journey. But that, too, could change soon. In various countries, the chiefs of the police authorities are currently campaigning for a legal regulation to introduce the pupil look as an official control procedure after alcohol and drug tests.
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