Orwell’s Big Brother is among us: instruments of all kinds control individual and collective movements of people and objects, with a large part dedicated to traffic monitoring, above all to increase safety. On the subject, an important role is played by radars (acronym for RAdio Detection And Ranging), invented during the Second World War for war purposes, and then directed towards peaceful uses. A system that, thanks to the giant Bosch – the main player in the automotive field for safety, autonomous driving, technologies, information and communication between vehicles and infrastructures – is now making its debut on public transport with an electronic driver assistant for trams, the Tram Forward Collision Warning.
A radar on the rails
Motorists, cyclists, motorcyclists and pedestrians can constitute a danger to themselves and an obstacle for the oncoming tram: the vehicle traveling on the tracks cannot discard to avoid the obstacle. Hence enormous situations of danger.
With the Tram Forward Collision Warning, on the other hand, the system first warns the tram driver with a signal, then brakes – even independently – if there is no prompt intervention by the driver.
The assistance system consists of a multifunction camera, a radar sensor and an electronic control unit. The camera detects the boundaries of the tracks, as well as the vehicles and people in front of the tram, and communicates the information in real time to the radar sensor. The information on the objects acquired by the video and radar system then flows into an overall image of the surrounding environment. Based on this information and considering the vehicle speed, the control unit calculates the risk of collision.
If the driver does not react within two seconds of the warnings coming from the instrumentation, a safety function automatically brakes the tram until it comes to a complete stop, but deceleration occurs gradually, so as to avoid injury to the passengers of the tram itself.
The social costs
The use of this system makes it possible to reduce or even avoid accidents, both for damage to people and for those to vehicles and to the electricity and road network, reducing costs for transport company managers and therefore also their reverberation. on the social costs of the territory. Bosch Engineering has developed this collision warning system based on proven series technology from the automotive industry. Furthermore, the system is constantly evolving and in the coming years will be further improved with even more efficient sensors, and it is not excluded that it may also be used on high-speed trains, in addition to the underground radar system already present in many countries. Bosch expects that the efficiency of the system will also allow it to be exported to other continents beyond Europe, starting from the United States as early as 2022.
Who protects pedestrians?
The risks due to the arrival of a tram are, in turn, a danger for pedestrians. So to reduce the dangers, “radars” have been installed in Padua that allow you to monitor the arrival of vehicles traveling on rails and intelligently adjust the traffic lights to allow their transit without affecting traffic.
But progress does not stop
Until now, the degree of resolution (level of detail) of the images obtained by the radar is always proportional to the frequency of the radio waves used: the more detailed images correspond to a higher frequency range, which can only be reached with the use of more cumbersome and expensive radar, to the detriment of possible practical applications in the transport sector, where dimensions, costs and weight are decisive for deciding whether to install or not. Recently, however, an Israeli scientist, Pavel Ginzburg, has solved the problem with a new technology that makes use of the coherence of electromagnetic waves, and has made it possible to build a radar capable of obtaining high definition images even with low frequency signals. , therefore at lower costs. Furthermore, this new technology can also be applied to existing radar networks, having the advantage of occupying only a small portion of the electromagnetic spectrum and thus removing the risk of signal overlaps, an essential condition for its diffusion, considering that in the future it will not too far it is expected that the number of cars using this technology will increase exponentially.