Currently, the highest tech devices we see "lighting" the roads at night in areas where streetlights are impractical are reflectors. Not exactly the newest of the new. And, with nighttime accidents not uncommon, increasing the visibility of the road at night is a good thing. Doing it by using solar energy is great.

Enter the British firm Astucia, which has developed the SolarLite flush road stud. This stud contains LEDs that are powered by tiny solar panels that collect and store energy during the day (so don't expect these in tunnels or heavily forested areas) and automatically turn on the lights when it gets dark out. The SolarLites can be seen from 900 meters away (over half a mile) which is much better than a reflector's 90 meters of visibility. Astucia claims that this increase gives drivers over 30 seconds to react to changes in the road direction instead of the 3.2 seconds they have when only reflectors are involved. Already in use in places around the UK, nighttime accidents in those areas have dropped by over 70 percent since the SolarLites were installed, Astucia says.

And here's another bonus, one that surprised me. Astucia says a SolarLite will last between 8-10 years, much longer than a conventional retro-reflective stud that needs to be replaced every year or two. Is that really how often those road reflectors need to be replaced? Yikes.


[Source: Astucia and Autoblog]


BRITISH INVENTION SHOWS WAY AHEAD IN NIGHT-TIME DRIVING


Astucia SolarLite flush road stud uses stored solar power to give a ten-fold improvement in night time road visibility.

Shorter days and longer hours of darkness, along with inclement winter weather place particular emphasis on the need for road delineation, to show the driver where the road goes next. The latest generation of a British-designed "smart" road-stud has just been certified by the Department for Transport and is making a significant improvement to driving safety, with a big boost in visibility compared with the traditional reflective "cats-eye."

The Astucia SolarLite™ stud stores solar energy during the day, then built-in Light Emitting Diodes automatically illuminate from dusk to dawn, providing drivers with up to 900 metres of visibility. This is ten times greater than the traditional, retro-reflective, passive road stud which relies on being illuminated by the headlight beam of the approaching vehicle. At best it has a useful range of 90 metres.

The increased visibility given by the SolarLite road stud extends driver reaction times from 3.2 to over 30 seconds, when driving at 60mph. The studs are now in use in approximately 120 locations across the UK and a number of Local Authorities have reported reductions in night time accidents of well over 70% since the installation of the SolarLite "smart" road studs.

Research carried out by the Transport Research Laboratory also shows that when the smart studs are used, drivers also significantly less likely to cross the white line in the centre of a road or move out of lane on a dual carriageway. They also brake earlier and more consistently.

The greater number of visual references also means that drivers tend not to speed into the corners. In addition, the flush fitting studs are also safer for cyclist and motorcyclists. All make their contribution to added driving safety.

The latest generation of the SolarLite F Series intelligent road stud has taken advantage of improved solar panel and Light Emitting Diode (LED) technology, along with internal design developments, to allow costs to be dramatically reduced in comparison with earlier units.

The latest Astucia stud reduces casualties on the road and has a projected life of eight to ten years, compared with just one to two years for a conventional retro-reflective stud. Over its lifespan an Astucia "smart" stud will therefore cost no more than a traditional cat's eye. The units' efficiency can also allow a reduction in the use of energy- and maintenance-intensive, carbon-inefficient, streetlights.

In comparison with the cost and trauma of a fatal road accident of course, the price of any road stud fades into insignificance. According to the latest UK Department for Transport annual statistics, there are on average more than 8 fatal accidents every day, each one costing the country £1.69 million pounds. While only one third of all journeys occur at night, almost half of the serious or fatal accidents occur during the hours of darkness.

In the UK, Astucia road studs are currently installed on roads in Lothian in Scotland, the Vale of Glamorgan in Wales, in Buckinghamshire, Norfolk and Oxfordshire. They are also used in more specialised applications such as demarking cycle lanes in Cambridgeshire and Fast Track bus lanes in Essex.

The smart, safe and sustainable concept that created the Astucia SolarLite studs was conceived in 1989 by Martin Dicks. A former member of the London Fire Brigade, he formed Astucia to develop and market his invention in 1992..

Martin is recognised within the industry as one of the true visionaries in this vital field of road safety, building on the legacy of Percy Shaw, the inventor of the original "cats-eye" in the 1930s. Dicks is the inventor of an entire product range covering solar and hardwired studs, including studs that can warn of impending hazards such as fog, ice and surface water, or stationary traffic ahead

In 2003, Astucia made a significant step forward when John Madejski OBE DL, best known for his ownership of Reading Football Club and, more recently for his charitable work in the arts field supporting the Royal Academy and the V&A museum, acquired a controlling interest in the business. He made further investments to fund the R&D program and has supported the development of the company as a part of the Clearview Traffic Group, which also includes Golden River Traffic, a leader in the field of automated traffic counting and classifying, and Count On Us, the largest UK provider of transportation data collection and analysis services.

"Astucia is shaping the future of traffic safety by providing superior information to drivers about potential hazards direct from the road in their natural field of vision" says Martin Rodgers, sales and marketing director for Clearview Traffic. "The advance information on the road ahead provided to drivers by the Astucia studs is clearly proven to reduce incidents, so we're delighted to be able to bring to the market this next generation of flush stud, which is also easier and therefore cheaper to install, further justifying a unique British product which is continuing to prevent accidents and save lives."


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