Sensor-equipped streetlamps make driving safer

July 21, 2020 //By Christoph Hammerschmidt
Sensor-equipped streetlamps make driving safer
In the MEC-View research project, companies and research institutions are investigating the question of how connected sensors on streetlamps can contribute to improving safety for road users in confusing urban traffic. Autonomous vehicles are the focus of the scenario.

The MEC-View project is investigating how street lamps of all things can make traffic in city centres safer and give automated vehicles an overview of traffic events. This requires cameras and lidar sensors installed on the lights. Thanks to mobile radio technology, they provide vehicles in real-time with important information in real time to enable them to detect obstacles - whether they are other cars, bicycles or pedestrians.

After more than three years of development, the project is now ready to deliver its results. Partners in the project, which is being funded by the Federal Ministry of Economics and Energy (BMWi) with 5.5 million euros, include consortium leader Bosch, Mercedes-Benz, Nokia, Osram, traffic data provider TomTom, the company IT Designers, and the universities of Duisburg-Essen and Ulm. Associated partner is the city of Ulm, where the sensors on the streetlights and the networking technology have been tested over the past three years. The knowledge gained in the project now serves to further develop vehicle technology, automated driving and mobile phone technology. In addition, the infrastructure built up can now be used in further research projects.

The safety engineers' considerations are based on the height of the streetlights: At a height of up to six metres (about 20 feet), they tower above the traffic and thus have a much better overview of what is happening, for example, at busy intersections. This is exactly the kind of overview that automated vehicles need. Yes, the sensor systems installed in the vehicle with cameras, radar and lidar sensors enable a precise 360-degree panoramic view. However, it is not always possible to tell from the vehicle's perspective whether a pedestrian is currently being covered by a truck, a vehicle is coming from a road that is difficult to see, or a cyclist is approaching from behind and is quickly changing lanes. "Because the vehicle itself cannot see around corners or through house walls, we use the sensors of the streetlights to extend the detection range of the vehicle sensors," explains Rüdiger Walter Henn, head of the MEC-View project at consortium leader Bosch. The project partners have developed the corresponding hardware and software for this purpose, which processes the images and signals from the infrastructure sensors, combines them with high-resolution digital maps (HD maps) and transmits them to the vehicle via mobile radio. There, the data is merged with the vehicle's sensor information to create an accurate picture of the situation with all relevant road users.

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