Wed. Oct 23rd, 2019

Road warning system: life-saving technology

7 min read

British writer Williams Manners account  Revolution: How the Bicycle Reinvented Modern Britain  ( Revolution: How the bike reinvented the modern UK ) how the bike has influenced, since the eighteenth century, constantly improving roads and cities, and also in the way to live the free time of men and women. The bicycle has managed to create debate on mobility and urban planning, on leisure and outdoor activities and also on road safety. The bike is still what the writer HG Wells said: “Whenever I see an adult on a bicycle, I regain hope for humanity.” And yet, cyclists are one of the most vulnerable groups on the road. Every year in Spain, an average of 70 cyclists die on Spanish roads and more than 7,000 are injured. 

And although the bicycle occupies much of the debate on citizen mobility, it is still a secondary road vehicle. Those that you share with cars, those with a strategy that is sometimes non-existent about the safety of cyclists. Going after the idea that the bike is always an innovative element, technology is re-united to save the lives of cyclists. To prevent everyone from having an accident that leaves them in the gutter in their biography or that of someone nearby.

The cyclist Pedro Delgado is the protagonist of the informative video about this road warning system and which explains the insecurity experienced by cyclists and how technology can solve or limit the problem that takes many lives and many resources every year.


Most accidents occur with the involvement of a vehicle and on secondary roads, in which cyclists are one of the most vulnerable groups. Fortunately, technology has a lot to say in terms of road safety. We have verified it in a pilot of the IoT System for warning of road risks, which has given us great clues as to where the mobility of the future will go and that we have done in Robledillo de la Jara (Madrid), together with the former professional cyclist  Slim Parakeet.

It is a solution created jointly by the DGT, Telefónica, SEAT, Aeorum, and Ficosa to provide drivers with assisted driving that increases their safety, by receiving notices in advance about obstacles on the road. This solution, based on IoT  (the Internet of Things), is specially designed for cases of interaction between a car and a cyclist, on the road or the shoulder.

Internet of things for accident prevention

Luis Simón Gómez, head of Business and Innovation IoT  of Telefónica , explains that “it is a solution of the Internet of things that has four components: the first is a drone with a camera that allows you to collect information and road images; the second, the drone connected to a mobile network that sends the information in real time. This information reaches a server, the third component, an MEC, where the risks are processed and can be identified. The fourth component is the alert it sends the MEC to connected cars that travel in the direction of cyclists.

Real time alert

Immediacy, the time between the risk detection and the vehicle alert, is essential. Leticia López, an expert in Vehicular Communications of Telefónica points out that what makes this solution possible are “advances in mobile connectivity, both in capacity, especially in the upload link, and in latency level”. Leticia reveals that the key to the immediate response in this type of critical communications lies in the MEC ( Multi-Acess Edge Computing) what is known as network edge computing. What does this mean? Bring the servers, services, content, and applications closer to the user. The journey of the data is thus much easier than if the server is in the cloud. Latencies are reduced. And we add intelligence to the network edge, so MEC is not just an intermediary, it also provides processing capacity.


“Edge computing” vs. “cloud computing”

The concept of edge computing breaks with the current architecture of mobile networks, the cloud computing that we all know. It is closeness to remoteness. Real-time communication is not possible if the drone has to send images to a server located, for example, in Iceland and the result had to travel back via Robledillo de la Jara. Instead of a single server, in edge computing servers multiply looking for that proximity. “We are going to have geographically distributed servers. MEC is one of the great pillars of future 5G networks. The good news is that we can start deploying it in today’s 4G networks,” explains Leticia.

How does the MEC distinguish between a cyclist, a stationary car or any other obstacle? The answer, again, is technology. The processing capacity of the MEC is based on an artificial vision system capable of identifying the type of risk; machine learning, the ability of artificial intelligence to learn, allows the training system to evolve and is becoming more precise time.

This system, as well as the drone, is contributed by the Malaga-based company Aeorum. Luis tells us about the possibilities of this solution: “The obstacles we identify are now a traveling cyclist or a broken down car, but you can train the system to identify animals, pedestrians or landslides on the road. A great advantage of this solution is which is very versatile. The drone can fly over an area or we can have a fixed camera, on traffic lights or infrastructures in urban environments, for example, to identify specific city risk situations. ”

Once seen how the images of the road are transmitted and interpreted, the other big question is how that information reaches the vehicle. The C-V2X ( Cellular Vehicle to Everything ) connectivity is the answer: “A technology that relies on our mobile networks and allows the car to communicate with its surroundings. What we call the answering car,” says Leticia López.

Cars with a sixth sense

The last link in this technological solution is the connected car, which receives the alerts sent by the MEC. César Marcos, responsible for SEAT’s 5G project, uses a very illustrative simile: “From a security point of view, it is about providing the driver with a sixth sense. We inform you predictively of what is happening in your environment to help you make decisions: brake, accelerate, stop the vehicle … in the face of a possible danger “.

Imagine a winding road in a rural environment. I don’t see what is behind the curve, but the system will let me know if there is an obstacle. The car is connected to the MEC through an electronic unit incorporated in the vehicle called TCU, an acronym for Telematic Control Unit, a device supplied by Ficosa. César uses a simile again to explain: “We can compare it with a mobile phone, which has an electronics connected to the telephone network. In the car, we do the same. Inside the vehicle, we have an electronic unit that also, through antennas, connects to the MEC “.

Thus, the car can communicate with the environment. And not only that. As Leticia explains, “in addition to communicating, they have to understand each other, speak the same language. That language is the one defined by C-V2X.”

The driver receives the information through the instrument panel, in the form of a visual and acoustic warning with a message: “Attention, a cyclist” or “Attention, an obstacle” (when there is a car parked on the road). 

“This type of proof of concept that we do with the connected car, we frame it within the vision we have in SEAT of ‘mission, zero accidents’ and we see it as the first steps towards the autonomous vehicle. First, it is necessary to have the information of the connecting ecosystem; from there the machine will be able to make decisions, “adds César.

Bet from the DGT to avoid accidents

Rubén López, head of the DGT Air Media Unit, emphasizes the involvement of the DGT in this pilot and the need to protect the most vulnerable groups of roads: “The DGT expects to have a drone capable of integrating these groups, such as cyclists and pedestrians, into this cloud of connectivity that alerts drivers and other users of traffic lanes to their presence. ” 

The potential of this drone for the DGT is enormous, Rubén confirms: “We have a network of conventional roads of more than 165,000 kilometers. Where we do not arrive with the helicopters, we want to reach with the drones: the risk sections, the concentration of accidents, blackheads, protected areas for cyclists … there we will allocate a drone. On a conventional road of a single road, where more than 70 percent of the accidents in which a cyclist is involved are concentrated, drones are the perfect tool for protecting them. ”  

This IoT road hazard warning solution is currently in the testing phase but will soon be a reality. These are steps towards connected and sustainable mobility that will save many lives on the road, especially that of cyclists, one of the most vulnerable user groups. The goal is to eradicate fatal and serious accidents and, to achieve this, technology is one of the great allies.

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