Fume monitor

The long-term damage to health from vehicle pollution could finally be measured using a comprehensive system that will monitor vehicle emissions.

The system, dubbed The Vehicle Performance and Emissions Monitoring System (VPEMS) is being developed by a UK research consortium, including Imperial College, Sira and mobile tracking system developer Saturn Technologies.

‘We are developing a system that allows us to generate credible data to understand the long-term health impacts of transport-related pollution,’ said Dr. Washington Ochieng, senior lecturer in Geomatics and Telematics at Imperial College’s Centre for Transport Studies.

Sensors in the VPEMS not only monitor vehicle and driver performance, both of which affect the level of emissions produced by the vehicle, but also emissions levels inside and outside the vehicle. The data from the sensors, which is sampled at least once a second, is combined with the vehicle’s location and the time and then transmitted via a GSM link to a master control station.

The station holds a Geographical Information Systems (GIS) database of the UK road network, and uses special algorithms to combine the data and generate a map of pollution levels across the country.

The system is a departure from existing environmental measurement techniques that use static sensors to measure air pollution levels in a particular area, but do not distinguish between vehicle emissions and those generated by other sources.

‘The new system will allow officials to ensure the UK is complying with environmental regulations, while health professionals hope to gain valuable information on the affects of pollution on the development of cancers, as well as breathing and lung disorders,’ added Ochieng.

‘The system could also make predictions for the following day. People might decide they don’t want to be on the road between 7am and 9am because the CO levels are too high,’ he said.

It could also enable the government to charge for the amount of pollution caused by each vehicle.

The research team will shortly begin testing the prototype, and plans to start limited field trials within the next two months.

The project is funded by the DTI, under the Foresight Vehicle LINK programme, and the EPSRC. Its advisory board includes the department of transport, the Highways Agency, Jaguar Cars, the AA, BT, logistics firm Tibbet & Britten, and several local authorities.