Keeping a grip on the road

A project taking place in Finland could help improve safety for road users driving in the kind of conditions that wreaked havoc across Britain this week.

The solution, developed through the EU-funded project called FRICTION, claims to allow cars to ‘see’ the road ahead, determine its condition, and calculate the amount of friction available for braking and steering.

‘Friction is easy enough to measure once you start slipping,’ said Pertti Peussa, the project coordinator. ‘But our aim was to have a good estimate of the maximum friction even when driving steadily on a straight road. That’s a very difficult problem.’

As part of the project, researchers designed and tested a range of smart sensors that can be integrated both within the vehicle itself and externally on its tyres. The data from these different sensors alerts the driver to dangerous conditions and automatically stabilise the car to prevent loss of control.

Sensors are already available to detect large objects ahead, however this is the first time that a system has been developed to warn the driver to adverse weather conditions such as water, snow or ice.

It is expected that FRICTION’s automotive partners, Fiat and Volvo, alongside other manufacturers, will introduce friction sensing features to their safety packages in the next few years.