New SICK sensor products provide unique tools for road asset managers

New products in Lidar sensor technology from SICK are giving road infrastructure asset managers the ability to classify vehicles on the network and a wider solution to managing road traffic and safety. New products in Lidar sensor technology from SICK are giving road infrastructure asset managers the ability to classify vehicles on the network and a wider solution to managing road traffic and safety. 

The Brisbane Metro, Melbourne’s M80 Ring Road Upgrade, WestConnex – these are three of what Infrastructure Australia has outlined as ‘high priority projects’ for Australia in 2018.

The total six ‘high priority projects’ outlined in the independent infrastructure advisory body’s latest Infrastructure Priority List are aimed to address a major problem or an opportunity of national significance – in this case, urban congestion.

They also form part of the $55 billion pipeline of ‘nationally significant’ infrastructure projects outlined in the list, which was released this past March.

With such a comprehensive list – based on the Australian Infrastructure Audit and more than 500 submissions from governments, stakeholder groups and the community – the nation could expect to see the ball rolling on some of these major projects soon.

Anticipating the needs of asset managers tasked with managing traffic and safety on these types of road infrastructure projects earmarked for development in Australia, global sensor manufacturer SICK is bringing a new and innovative sensor solution to the Australian market.

SICK is already equipping asset managers with sensors for traffic management solutions for existing and next-generation road infrastructure internationally, and Massimo Sacchi, SICK National Product Manager – System Solutions, says there’s plenty of opportunity to implement the same cutting edge technology in Australia.

The manufacturer recently launched a new device capable of classifying a vehicle on the road in free-flow condition, by measuring it using Lidar technology – a new development in SICK’s offerings that builds on the businesses comprehensive traffic management sensor solutions.

The vehicle profiling system is installed on overhead infrastructure on road networks and scans vehicles passing underneath – detecting the complete 3D shape of the vehicle thanks to the laser technology.

“By using the infrastructure, the vehicle profiling sensor can measure the dimensions of a vehicle to detect oversized vehicles,” Mr. Sacchi says. Not only does the system assist in monitoring the condition of the traffic, it can measure the speed and classification of the vehicles in real-time too.

“The ability to classify the vehicle can be used for tolling purposes – it’s well used in this space in Europe, but it’s uncommon in Australia, which comes down to the fact Australia tolling is done using eTag, RFID and camera number plate recognition,” he adds.

“Because all of these solutions are used with the real-time and integrated with wider traffic management systems, the asset managers can react to any dangers on the road and divert traffic accordingly.”

By having an understanding of the differences in terms of the amount of vehicles on the road, their speed and the different types of vehicles using the network at different times of the day, network managers can gain a greater understanding of where and when major bottlenecks occur.

“The system is designed for use on any type of road, especially those before tunnels or bridges to help with height detection. We also have a system in New Zealand where freight transport is measured and charged for dimension at a port before being loaded onto ships,” Mr. Sacchi explains.

SICK has been providing similar systems in the Australasian market for about four years, but the need for better quality traffic monitoring sensors required an update to existing technology.

“The industry demand for quality products and services is increasing – the existing technology available in the market, which has been used in Australia for the past 10 years, reached its limit and there were a number of constraints to its use,” Mr. Sacchi explains.

“Typically, a double laser beam device looking across the road was used in the past to capture this vehicle and traffic management data, but this had multiple limitations – it couldn’t scan across all the lanes of the road, was low resolution and had limited spread.”

The new Lidar scanning technology employs a laser beam projected from above the road with an angle that changes at high frequency, eliminating any shadow effect and broadening the device’s range and capabilities.

“This is the next level – through this technology we are now getting much more interest from the market thanks to the introduction of it seeing across multiple lanes and its increased capability for vehicular profiling,” Mr. Sacchi adds.

He says the processing of information goes well beyond simply identifying a vehicle’s size and shape. “The system also uses thermal imaging to identify hotspots on a vehicle, which will help the asset manager understand if it’s a danger in regards to that specific class of vehicle,” he explains.

“We could use the camera and look at the wheel of a vehicle to see if it is reaching a high heat level, which might not be dangerous to a certain class of truck, but certainly for a smaller vehicle. Because the system has the ability to identify specific models of trucks, heavy vehicles, and cars – and base that identification on SICK’s large database of Australian vehicle classes – the asset manager can identify any dangers and determine whether it needs to be addressed or not.”

The thermal imaging technology also works for identifying dangers concerning the temperature of material being carted by heavy vehicles, something Mr. Sacchi says is particularly important for companies carting dangerous material. He cites an incident in 2013, when a semi-trailer burst into flames in Sydney’s M2 tunnel, as a key example of where thermal imaging technology could help mitigate disaster on road networks.

Likewise, in tunnel areas, other technologies implemented by SICK include dust measuring devices and gas analyser systems, which measure pollutant and gas concentration in the air respectively. This assists in early fire detection and to evaluate the visibility and efficiency of the tunnel’s ventilation. “The system can be used for measuring the velocity of the air during normal operation and especially in the case of a fire, and can be connected to the tunnel control system and alert the asset manager to switch on the air blower for ventilation,” Mr. Sacchi says.

SICK recently collaborated with New South Wales Roads and Maritime Services trialling a couple of the new vehicular profiling laser systems, and is assessing the technology with an airport company in terms of monitoring the road traffic around the airport.

“The airport has just taken on a project in order to monitor the differences on the roads around the airport at in the different hours of the day in order to improve their own internal management systems,” Mr. Sacchi says.

The new vehicle profiling system is part of a wider family of traffic monitoring solutions SICK offers, and Mr. Sacchi says the manufacturer is continually seeking different ways to integrate the new technology with customers’ existing systems.

“There are a lot of options in terms of connectivity with other systems and most of the traffic management systems out there can easily integrate with this device. It needs to be installed on gantries and other overhead infrastructure, but we’re starting to think about more flexible installations on the network,” he says.

“Every installation and instance will have different requirements and unique network aspects to consider. Our project leaders are able to coordinate with customers to see how we can offer a complete system that can work for them.”


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