The aim of the 'Barriera Attiva' project was to use guardrails as multiple quantity measurement systems and, at the same time, to provide an immediate, on-site, alarm in case of possible impact with the structure. By applying smart sensors at the guardrail level, embedded in the structure, it is possible to process the acquired information locally, with the guardrail playing an active role in the prevention of collisions between vehicles and guardrails. Another important issue addressed by the 'Barriera Attiva' project was environmental monitoring along the roads by adding environmental quantity sensors at the guardrails.
The project was funded by the Italian Ministry of Education, University and Research, in the framework of the National Operating Programme 'Research and Competitiveness 2007-2013".
The project aimed to develop a prototype of an integrated system, whose main component was an active guardrail, equipped with sensors, to acquire measurements about road safety and air quality. The guardrail is able to notify dangerous conditions, by means of light or acoustic signals, and to notify such conditions to a control centre. Through the application and use of active guardrails it may be possible to achieve the targets of:
- Monitoring the road infrastructures by knowing the position of collisions between vehicles and guardrails,
- Monitoring the traffic load, by grossly counting the vehicles crossing a road section and measuring their average speed,
- Improving the travellers' safety by using different alarms to prevent imminent collisions, and
- Assessing the environmental impact of the traffic. All those targets could be reached on very broad areas along the main highways by using adequate WSN architectures.
The following sensors have been foreseen to be integrated in the guardrail:
- Speed sensors, to measure the speed of the vehicles passing on the road and count the vehicles, for road monitoring purposes
- Proximity sensors, to measure the distance between the guard-rail and the vehicle passing on the road
- Acceleration sensors, to detect a collision between a vehicle and the guard-rail, and
- Environmental sensors, to measure the concentration of harmful gases, such as CO, NO2, and SO2, near the road and that of Particle Matter (PM10, PM2.5).
The main Work Packages include:
- the analysis of the parameters of interest about environmental monitoring and road safety
- the definition of the services offered by the proposed system
- the definition of measurement interfaces
- the sensor selection and design
- the design of the electronic interfaces for the sensors
- the design of the power supply elements
- the mechanical design of the guardrail
- the design of the IT platform
- the prototype integration
- the prototype testing
- the result dissemination.
The project envisaged the development of innovative features such as:
- Survey of pollutants emitted by motorized vehicles, by means of sensors installed within road barriers;
- Implementation of bright LEDs (low power consumption) at road edge lines;
- Real-time communication to the road operator of any roadside damage caused by a collision, for a timely intervention to restore road safety and to signal potential danger to other road users;
- Intelligent communication system capable of signalling, at appropriate steps, the speed of the vehicles in circulation prior to their passage, thus able to report on the panels immediately placed above the barrier the appropriate speed reductions;
- Dangerous approach of motorized half-way to the road barrier with light-emitting diode;
- Photovoltaic power supply of active systems in the barrier.
The selected application areas for prototype testing will be those typical of Italian roads, in particular the motorways run by ANAS SpA, Autostrade per l'Italia SpA and Autostrade del Brennero. All information deriving from the above-mentioned detection systems is managed and monitored by a specially-established Service Centre and is an integral part of the prototype demonstrator produced by the project.