Wireless sensors in traffic cones to protect workers

18 June 2014
By David Crawford
Mobile version
Share |
Paths of traffic cones hit by a car at different speed

Paths of traffic cones hit by a car at different speed

UK companies are spearheading a European scheme aimed at reducing highway work zone deaths and injuries.

The €1m (£800,000) Safelane project is developing a wireless defence system for site perimeters, using ‘intelligent’ traffic cones and alarm sounders to give workers prompt warnings of vehicle incursions. Improved rechargeable battery technology is another element of the project.

Research for the Highways Agency (HA) indicates that a third of pedestrians killed or injured at maintenance sites are road workers, and half of all UK road workers have reported a near miss with a vehicle during their careers. The Agency is putting increased emphasis on safety alongside its current £1.4bn road improvement programme.

HA maintenance contractors are already deploying new-style cones developed by the Safelane project leader, Highway Resource Solutions (HRS), on motorway and trunk road sites across England. The Intellicone is an upgraded version of the conventional nightwork beacon, with its battery-powered lantern adapted to include a contact sensor.

If the cone detects impact from a straying vehicle, it sends out a radio frequency signal that triggers a portable site alarm (PSA), located within 50m, to ‘scream’, alerting road crews.

The curling stone-shaped PSA also contains a communications module, enabling it to send an automated text message to the site supervisor to organise remedial work, activate a variable message sign to give a visual warning, and inform the system Web portal. A prototype device management system and Web portal has already been developed.

The PSAs can also respond to secondary contactless ‘sentry’ sensors, introduced to detect the nearness to a site of pedestrians or vehicles – including, in a recent enhancement, overheight plant at risk of striking bridges, gantries or overhead cables.

With the Intellicone model at its core, Safelane partners are now developing impact algorithms that will enable perimeter systems to distinguish between impacts of differing severity. UK transport consultancy TRL has been carrying out test-track and in-lab tests looking at factors such as debris scatter patterns.

Meanwhile, the project is within a few weeks of producing a prototype rechargeable battery that will be integrated into the sensor-equipped lantern. Conventional disposable batteries have short lifespans and so need frequent changing. With the introduction of on-site recharging capability, Safelane aims to cut replacement rates by 90 per cent, saving on labour, disposal and environmental costs.

HRS managing director Roger Poeth sees potential for using the integrated sensor unit in other transport and environmental applications, such as traffic and air quality monitoring.

TRL is also exploring potential overseas markets for the system, over and above the EU Member States represented in the project – Germany, Lithuania, the Netherlands and the UK. Other technology partners include Colas and Philips Industries.

Latest Issue

E&T cover image 1606

"Where would Frankenstein and his creative mind fit into today's workplace? Should we fear technological developments or embrace them?"

E&T jobs

  • Graduate Electrical Engineers

    • United Kingdom and Ireland
    • Competitive

    Due to the diverse nature of our business there are many different teams each with very different responsibilities.

    • Recruiter: AECOM

    Apply for this job

  • Network Innovation Engineer / Analyst - UK Power Sector

    Premium job

    Nortech Management Ltd
    • Birmingham, West Midlands or Pershore (Worcestershire)
    • £30,000 - £35,000 (depending on experience) + benefits

    Network Innovation Engineer / Analyst to join a team of talented technology enthusiasts who design and support the low carbon networks of the future.

    • Recruiter: Nortech Management Ltd

    Apply for this job

  • Electrical Engineer with Strong telecoms background

    Premium job

    Sure South Atlantic Ltd
    • Falkland Islands

    Sure South Atlantic Ltd currently has a unique engineering opportunity in their Falkland Islands office. Surrounded by the Atlantic Ocean, teeming ...

    • Recruiter: Sure South Atlantic Ltd

    Apply for this job

  • Cyber, Communication, Information and Data Scientist roles

    Premium job

    • Porton Down, Salisbury
    • Competitive salaries

    Information is everything. Use it to serve your country and help keep us safe.

    • Recruiter: Dstl

    Apply for this job

  • Production Engineer

    Premium job

    Compact Engineering
    • Thirsk / Leeds / Banbury / Colchester / Cambridge
    • Salary will be competitive and commensurate with experience, knowledge, aptitude and capability

    A Production Engineer with some knowledge and understanding of radiant energy transfer.

    • Recruiter: Compact Engineering

    Apply for this job

  • Electronics Engineer

    Premium job

    Nikon Metrology Europe
    • Tring, Hertfordshire

    Nikon Metrology is looking for an Electronics Engineer to join our Electronics Team based in Tring (UK).

    • Recruiter: Nikon Metrology Europe

    Apply for this job

  • Engineering Manager

    BAE Systems
    • Hampshire, England, Portsmouth
    • Competitive package

    Would you like to play a vital role in managing and implementing the correct governance in order to enable BAE Systems to provide assurance and integrity of supply chain data? We currently have a vacancy for an Engineering Manager - Product Integrity

    • Recruiter: BAE Systems

    Apply for this job

  • Engineering Project Manager - Electrical & Automation

    • York, North Yorkshire
    • c£45,000 + Car Allowance + Bonus + Excellent Benefits

    Nestlé Product Technology Centre in York currently has an excellent opportunity for an Engineering Project Manager

    • Recruiter: Nestle

    Apply for this job

  • Consultant Engineer - Test

    BAE Systems
    • Farnborough, Hampshire, England
    • Negotiable

    Consultant Engineer - Test Would you like to be a lead within an exciting team working on one of the UK's largest defence projects? We currently have a vacancy for a Consultant Engineer - Test at our site in Ash Vale. As a Consultant Engineer - Test, you

    • Recruiter: BAE Systems

    Apply for this job


    • Reading, Berkshire

    SSE are looking to recruit an Electrical Project Engineer into office in Reading

    • Recruiter: SSE

    Apply for this job

More jobs ▶


Choose the way you would like to access the latest news and developments in your field.

Subscribe to E&T