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Signal Lighting Assessment
(Road and Rail)

Supervisor: Dr K. Rafferty


There are about 40,000 road deaths each year in the European Union. It is believed that road design and operations account for at least one third of traffic crashes. New approaches must be found to meet the EU’s target of halving deaths by 2010, let along the vision of zero road deaths adopted by some countries.

Whilst it is unlikely that road transportation will ever be accident or fatality free, it is imperative to reduce these fatality figures by every means possible. Central to this is the need to ensure the safety of our road system. This ESF project aims to produce a prototype device capable of automatically assessing road signal lighting with the objective of forewarning of any deterioration in quality.

This project will utilise mobile and static sensing instrumentation (e.g. satellite-based navigation, inertial measurements units etc.) on a mobile platform. It is the aim of this project that the developed system can be used to regularly assess the quality of signal lighting used throughout the road infrastructure. The work builds on previous experience within QUB of video-camera-based road and airport infrastructure assessment and analysis. The proposed system will utilise image analysis and other sensory techniques, fitting to existing vehicles, to build up an easily updated picture about the quality of signal lighting used within the transportation corridor. The research integrates models of motion, vibration sensing and imaging into a single fused intelligently automated system.

The scientific and technological objectives of this project are therefore:

  • To specify, develop and implement technologies for road signal lighting assessment and management
  • To develop strategies, protocols and methods appropriate to innovative technological solutions in the application area of signal lighting assessment
  • To investigate and specify how to interface a range of sensing technologies for data collection to user-friendly diagnostic systems
  • To increase road serviceability and efficiency


Project Description

Signalling standards cover a range of conditions for lighting:

  1. The brightness levels and directionality
  2. The positioning of street furniture

Street signalling is based on advisory notes which determine the ways to position signals so that at least one is seen when there are physical obstructions.

A method for determining the effectiveness of present signalling is proposed. The method will measure the brightness of the signals and will be used to identify signals requiring maintenance and reconfiguration.

There are a number of different users whose needs must be modelled by the data collection unit:

  1. Car drivers
  2. Multipurpose vehicles
  3. Lorries Buses
  4. Cyclists and motorcyclists

The unit will be mobile and mounted so that a number of runs can be made at a junction under a single weather condition (or multiple conditions as described later). The system should integrate with normal traffic and be non-disruptive.

The methods to be used will include:

  1. Automated location of signals by the video collection system.
  2. Connection of lighting output of signals to user position in the carriageway.
  3. Prediction of lanes and areas which the vehicle does not collect from.
  4. Collection of lighting from other sources e.g. street lighting, on-coming traffic.
  5. Collection of conflicting signalling effects in a series of sequential junctions.

Researching Emerging Technologies

The solution will improve Intelligent Transportation Systems, which will solve social problems in accordance with the level of danger imposed by infrastructure danger.

Today’s technology makes it possible to develop a Video Inspection System for automatic road signal lighting assessment that records information in real time utilising a number of cameras.

The solution will use a Video Inspection System capable of recording high-resolution video data from various cameras simultaneously at high inspection speeds. The video data is stored on hard disk together with data from various sensors to determine the exact location of the recording to be able to synchronise all data in time and place.

The state of the art will be enhanced by:

  • Introduction of new services – if road signal lighting assessment is tackled by automatic procedures, the it will be inevitable that new standards will be developed to give higher precedence to automated procedures
  • Introduction of new applications – a generic device that can assess road signal lighting has may application areas and this device can be tailored to meet these areas e.g. road infrastructure deterioration through change detection
  • Improved productivity – automated surveying will allow targeted testing and maintenance procedures resulting in more efficient surveying
  • Improved understanding – with targeted maintenance as a result of regular automated surveying it is likely to enhance understanding of the reasons leading to unsatisfactory road signal lighting performance

QUB will be committed to the dissemination of knowledge and the exploitation of the final product. Results will be presented at national and international conferences and through journal publications. Dissemination will also be through out existing network of research collaborators that includes divisions of the DoE (Department of the Environment), lighting providers and manufacturers, as well as international bodies. It is envisioned that patents will be applied for innovative areas of the work.

Therefore any student involved with this project will not only be involved in researching and developing a innovative product whilst adhering to the needs of the lighting community but will also be responsible for publicising the work on an international basis.