MORYNE’s data trip

City buses equipped with mobile sensing platforms could send out live information that can be used to control traffic and detect road hazards.

The concept is part of the MORYNE project, an EU-funded €3.8m (£3m) study that aims to make European roads safer and less congested.

A total of 11 companies and organisations from Belgium, France, Germany, Hungary and Spain collaborated on the project led by EADS (European Aeronautic Defence and Space Company).

The European research team conducted a test of the system in Berlin in March. During the test, researchers equipped city buses with environmental sensors and cameras that enabled the vehicles to transmit measurements, warnings and live or recorded videos to anyone allowed to access the data.

Future buses like those tested in Berlin would use humidity and temperature sensors to check the road surface and analyse the air. The data would then be processed by a small on-board computer, which could warn the bus driver if, for example, foggy or icy conditions were imminent.

The computer can also send alerts to a public transport control centre via various wireless connections, including mobile radio systems, wi-fi or Wimax networks and UMTS (3G). The control centre can, in turn, warn nearby buses of dangerous conditions through the same wireless channels.

Another innovation stemming from the project is the bus-mounted road camera, a video acquisition and processing device that can detect traffic conditions around a bus. The system can be set up to spot cars driving illegally or parked in a bus lane and inform law enforcement bodies through the same wireless connection.

The same video system could be used to count the number of vehicles in adjoining lanes and measure their speed, which would alert a city traffic-monitoring centre of road conditions on the ground in real time.

‘Most large cities, where this type of system would be deployed, already have very extensive camera systems, inductive loops and environmental sensors networks in place to analyse traffic and weather,’ said Patrice Simon, the project’s co-ordinator. ‘But city traffic monitoring authorities involved in the project have told us they consider the information provided by buses to be a useful supplement.’

Simon said the technology could improve not only traffic control, but also security for bus drivers and passengers.

‘The devices are quite small but very powerful, and we could develop software that could analyse images to detect if a fight breaks out on the bus, for example, and automatically alert the police,’ said Simon.

Work on that particular technology remains to be done, but the MORYNE project has demonstrated that it is at least feasible.

‘All the public transport authorities we spoke to over the project showed a great and increasing interest in on-board security applications, but that was beyond the scope of the project,’ said Simon. ‘Still, we have made significant progress in realising this type of system, and the image and sound analysis software to detect aggression is the only major element currently missing.’

Siobhan Wagner