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New Solar-Powered Stop Signs Could Make Country Roads Safer

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Stop Sign

Maybe it’s happened to you: You’re enjoying a relaxing drive on a quiet country road surrounded by trees or cornfields. Suddenly, you encounter a stop sign you weren’t expecting and have to stomp on your brakes — narrowly avoiding a collision with another vehicle in the process.

As they approach intersections in heavily populated areas, drivers are generally protected by traffic lights, warning lights, and traffic-sensing technology. However, rural intersections often don’t have access to power and rely solely on signs to alert drivers. Because of this, rural driving can be quite dangerous — the source of more than half the country’s annual crash deaths, according to the U.S. Department of Transportation.

A research team at the University of Texas at San Antonio is working on technology to address this problem: solar-powered warning systems that can be installed on rural stop signs.

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Called “smart stop signs,” these systems detect oncoming vehicles with infrared sensors powered by solar panels. The sensors then activate flashing lights on the stop sign.

Researchers tout this technology’s affordability, efficiency, reliability, and accuracy. It costs much less than technologies typically used in cities and suburbs, uses less energy thanks to solar power, can be used even in areas that aren’t near the power grid, and is able to detect vehicles 90 percent of the time.

The UTSA research team says it plans to develop this technology further so it can also detect pedestrians and be exported to countries with insufficient infrastructure or power grid access.

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News Source: Forbes