Develop an innovative solution to solve the problem of accidents with wild animals along roads and highways.
In order to ensure the safety of motorists and wildlife, the driver must always be vigilant. Although, each year, North America experiences over 1,000,000 wildlife/vehicle accidents, which result in an estimated $1.2 billion in material damage and over 100 fatalities.
Rotalec was therefore mandated by the Ontario Ministry of Transportation to develop and install an automation solution which would detect wildlife or warn oncoming traffic when the wildlife posed a significant danger to motorists.
Challenges and Issues
- Replace previous ineffective and/or overly costly deterrents | Previous efforts to resolve this problem had not been successful, such as vehicle whistles, animal crossing bridges/tunnels, fencing, and roadside reflectors.
- Avoid impacting natural wildlife habits | A solution was required which would not result in significant change to the migration, feeding habits and natural pathways of wildlife in any attemps to deter them from entering areas of traffic.
- Overcome environmental and sensory challenges | Previous detection and warning systems struggled with environmental issues such as fog, rain, snow and changing landscapes. An improved system must be able to identify only designated types of animals in any of these conditions.
The optimal solution is the design of an innovative Wildlife Warning System (WWS) to alert motorists when wildlife approaches the roadway.
More specifically, a solar-powered system has been tailor-made to properly respond to the required geographic location. However, this solution is adaptable to any type of environment around various roads and highways in the country.
- Wildlife detection | In terms of machine vision, infrared sensors were initially used. However, a few years later, a new system using laser technology instead of infrared beams was installed. This type of sensor is less sensitive to bad weather such as fog, rain, heavy snow, etc. In addition, the software for this sensor allows the tracking of an animal as long as it remains on the roadway platform, not only when it leaves the bush. For this reason, the system not only tracks items moving on the roadway platform, but also monitors stationary items on the platform that could be a possible hazard to drivers.
As large wildlife approached a solution equipped roadway, they “broke” the double beam of the installed sensors and triggered the warning lights to notify drivers in the area. To help eliminate false warnings, the IR sensors were set at specific heights so that, when both beams broke simultaneously and for a predetermined amount of time, it would confirm the presence of destructive wildlife and not smaller animals.
- Motorist warning | In terms of automation, solar powered systems using warning signs and flashing lights to alert motorist to the movement of wildlife approaching the roadside have been designed and installed. Once wildlife has been detected and confirmed within the defined detection area, the system is configured to wirelessly alert multiple warning signs along the roadway. This system activates warning beacons within 1 second of detection, up to a distance of up to 1 km.
After determining the optimal placement of the sensors 10-15m from the side of the road, the time from the animal approach to the vehicle presence creates a real warning system, allowing motorists to slow down, in time and distance, before the large animal can reach their location on the road, effectively preventing collision.
- Wireless communication and solar energy | The system is designed with wireless communications and solar power in order to minimize hassle and maintenance. This is ideal for facilities located in remote locations that are most likely to experience high incidence of wildlife collisions with vehicles.
With a long range wireless network, the need for wiring between sign panels and detectors is eliminated. Detectors and signals communicate at distances of up to 1 km, with little interference from hills and other geographic obstacles. Smart wireless devices allow any detector to activate any of the warning signals for a user-defined period of time.
- Gateway for remote access and monitoring | In terms of IIoT, the Ministry of Transportation is able to connect to the system from any locatioin, including their offices. This allows for ongoing monitoring of the system and roadways to ensure it is continually active and functioning properly.
The Ministry and drivers now benefit from an ideal solution to be alerted to the presence of wildlife on or near the road. Motorists can therefore slow down and avoid any collisions with wildlife where the WWS is installed, a technological premiere when designing this customized engineered solution.
The proven solution was greatly appreciated by the Ministry, which saw its number of accidents reduce between motorists and wildlife near the highway where the system was installed.
Key benefits of this customized engineered solution
- Changes in behavior of drivers, not of wildlife.
- Little to no annual maintenance depending upon conditions.
- Reduction in wildlife/vehicle accidents in deployment zones.
- All hardware is low-cost and off-the-shelf.
- No external controllers, power supply, or computers involved.
- Easy to install additional detectors and signs to existing system.
- Easily add motion sensors, cameras and other devices to system.
- Gateway for remote access and monitoring from any desktop.
- Detects the targeted wildlife and not the smaller animals.
- Can distinguish between cars, other moving objects, and deer to prevent false alarms.
- Resists interference from environmental conditions such as fog, snow, or hills.