Government Technology

What's That Ahead?



July 27, 2005 By

It's late. The moon sheds some light on the road ahead, but not enough to see the large moose in the distance, standing in the middle of the road.

A car approaches, but the driver is unaware of the obstruction -- a split second before impact, he catches a flash of shaggy brown fur in his headlights. Brakes squeal as the car careens into the animal's legs, sending its bulk over the hood and smashing through the windshield.

There are no survivors.

Avoiding Wrecks

These collisions have several states asking how to prevent such tragedies, and concern about them helped launch a study to explore options for alerting drivers that a large animal could be blocking the roadway ahead.

The study, Animal Vehicle Crash Mitigation Using Advanced Technology, is being conducted by the Western Transportation Institute (WTI) at Montana State University, Bozeman, but is funded by 15 different transportation departments and the Federal Highway Administration.

Each contributor hopes to gain insight into the feasibility of installing animal detection systems along roadways to reduce vehicle collisions caused by animals blocking the right of way.

This isn't the first study using animal detection systems -- since 1993, Switzerland has installed several.

"Data from the seven sites in Switzerland showed an average reduction in ungulate-vehicle collisions of 82 percent," said Marcel Huijser, research ecologist at WTI and lead on the project. "These results are quite encouraging, but we still have some research questions with regard to the factors that may make a system more or less effective.

"For example, drivers are more likely to lower their speed if road and weather conditions are poor, and the warning signs may have to be accompanied by advisory or mandatory speed limit reductions," he continued. "The goal of the study is to evaluate the reliability and effectiveness of these animal detection systems, regardless of the outcome, positive or negative."

Crossing the Line

Animal detection systems use two primary technology types: area-cover sensors and break-the-beam sensors.

Area-cover sensors register the presence of large animals within a certain range of the sensor using infrared light or microwave radio signals. The sensors can be enhanced with specific algorithms capable of distinguishing between large animals and other moving objects that could potentially generate false detections, such as vehicles or hot pockets of air, Huijser explained.

Break-the-beam sensors are triggered once an animal breaks the beam sent between a transmitter and receiver, and includes infrared, laser or microwave radio signals.

The WTI system in place in Montana is located on a stretch of Highway 191 at Yellowstone National Park. This break-the-beam system uses low-power signals -- approximately 35.5 GHz. When an animal's presence breaks the beam, the signals transmitted to the receiver decrease, triggering the system and setting off warning lights.

This system requires direct line of sight, and the transmitter and receiver must be within one-quarter mile of each other. Solar panels provide the power for each, and excess power from the panels is stored in batteries, which lend power in the dark.

Upon animal detection, an ultra high frequency (UHF) signal is sent from the main station to the four stations nearby, causing the warning lights to flash.

"Within this one location at Yellowstone National Park, we've got a lot of elk movement, and it's clear they cross most in one section of the system," Huijser said. "They seem to prefer certain areas more than others. But this preference has not been very absolute, and where animals cross [the road] also depends on the species, because different species have different habits."

The system monitors detections, sending them via UHF radio signal in real time to the master station to be saved. This


| More

Comments

Add Your Comment

You are solely responsible for the content of your comments. We reserve the right to remove comments that are considered profane, vulgar, obscene, factually inaccurate, off-topic, or considered a personal attack.

In Our Library

White Papers | Exclusives Reports | Webinar Archives | Best Practices and Case Studies
Maintain Your IT Budget with Consistent Compliance Practices
Between the demands of meeting federal IT compliance mandates, increasing cybersecurity threats, and ever-shrinking budgets, it’s not uncommon for routine maintenance tasks to slip among state and local government IT departments. If it’s been months, or even only days, since you have maintained your systems, your agency may not be prepared for a compliance audit—and that could have severe financial consequences. Regardless of your mission, consistent systems keep your data secure, your age
Best Practice Guide for Cloud and As-A-Service Procurements
While technology service options for government continue to evolve, procurement processes and policies have remained firmly rooted in practices that are no longer effective. This guide, built upon the collaborative work of state and local government and industry executives, outlines and explains the changes needed for more flexible and agile procurement processes.
Fresh Ideas In Online Security for Public Safety Organizations
Lesley Carhart, Senior Information Security Specialist at Motorola Solutions, knows that online and computer security are more challenging than ever. Personal smartphones, removable devices like USB storage drives, and social media have a significant impact on security. In “Fresh Ideas in Online Security for Public Safely Organizations,” Lesley provides recommendations to improve your online security against threats from social networks, removable devices, weak passwords and digital photos.
View All

Featured Papers