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Engineering Research

Robotics and Mechatonics Lab: Highway Safety

Robotic Highway Safety Markers

Sponsored by the National Academy of Sciences


The objective of this project is to develop Robotic Safety Markers. Proper traffic control is critical in highway work zone safety. Traffic control devices such as signs, barricades, cones, and plastic safety barrels are often used. Accidents can occur because of improper work zone design, improper work zone housekeeping, and driver negligence. Automated safety devices could improve work zone design and housekeeping and therefore increase safety.

The Robotic Safety Markers can self-deploy and self-retrieve-removing workers from this dangerous task. The robots can move independently so they can be deployed in parallel and can quickly reconfigure as the work zone changes.

IDEA Safety barrels guide traffic and serve as a visible barrier between traffic and work crews. These barrels consist of a bright plastic drum (approximately 130cm high and 50cm in diameter) that is attached to a heavy base. Often, hundreds of barrels are manually placed in a typical work zone.

The Robotic Safety Barrel (RSB) replaces the heavy base of a typical safety barrel with a mobile robot. The mobile robot can transport the safety barrel and robots can work in teams to provide traffic control.
Shown to the right is the robotic base. The robot has two electric motors. Each wheel is driven by its' own motor. A castor supports the rear of the robot and the reversible, variable speed motors allow the robot to move in any direction as well as turn in place. IDEA
IDEA The robotic highway safety markers have been tested in field environments. Each robot moves individually. A single lead robot (general) provides global planning and control and issues commands to each barrel (troops). All robots operate as a team to close the right lane of a highway.

Robotic Roadside Vehicles:
Robotic Road Sign

IDEA In addition to barrels there is a desire to incorporate a road sign. Since signs have such a large surface area, they are more susceptible to being toppled by wind gusts. This physical characteristic is taken into account in the design of the robotic road sign. When a mesh sign is mounted, the stand allows for stability in wind gusts up to 70 mph.
The robotic road sign is controlled by two electric motors. One motor is used specifically to drive the robot, while the other is used to steer the robot. Worm gears are used for driving and steering the robot. Worm gears are selected due to their spability to act as brakes and also to stop devices quickly. Shown to the left is the steering and driving device as mounted on the robot base. Shown below are four views of the driving mechanism for the robotic road sign. With the designed gear ratio the robotic road sign can travel with a speed of up to 2.5 mph. IDEA

steering robot steering robot steering robot steering robot