IMCRC Activate: Australian Federal Grant award

An out of control vehicle often causes severe or fatal injuries to vehicle occupants, nearby pedestrians and complete demolition of the frangible traffic lights with expensive instrumentations. Current traffic lights installed in urban areas are just rigid hollow posts and not able to absorb significant impact energy. State governments and local councils had to repair and reinstall such frangible traffic lights costing $8,000-20,000 per traffic light.

Impact Absorbing System (IAS) has more than 20 years of experience in engineering design and development of road safety products and solutions, such as energy absorbing bollards, pole buffers. With rigorous in-house testing and validations, IAS’s products are being successfully installed by Australian Government and private authorities as well as demonstrated their efficacy.

UniSA has extensive capabilities in engineering design, material testing and analysis, addressing industry-focused research problems and developing critical know-how and skills for the industry. IAS had a strong collaboration with UniSA in developing energy absorbing buffer system.

With the above, this project will take a proof of concept energy absorbing traffic lights (EATL) that would arrest the out-of-control vehicle and absorb a significant amount of kinetic energy. Developed EATL will save nearby pedestrians and protect expensive traffic lights and still be functional after the impact.

Road accidents involving out of control vehicle impacting traffic lights are rapidly growing in Australia and around the world. Such incidences not only could cause fatal injury to nearby pedestrians but also result in a partial or complete collapse of expensive traffic lights. As a result, new traffic lights are required to be installed to restore normal traffic functions. This has been supported by recent road safety statistics.

Current traffic lights are simply rigid steel hollow tubular (or solid) structure, together with critical electrical instrumentations and control boxes and installed on a ground foundation at the intersections. There are not deterrents except for those traffic lights to protect pedestrians. Therefore, when a high speed out of control vehicle impacts traffic lights, those structures take all the impact load without absorbing kinetic energy, and thereby undergo a severe plastic deformation or failure causing complete breakdown of traffic lights. In other words, they merely act as a barrier but are not capable of arresting an out of control vehicle, hence leaving vehicle occupants and nearby pedestrians severely vulnerable. This could cost local authorities about $8,000-$20,000 per traffic light to replace with new ones, not mentioning potential cost of fatalities.

This issue has been identified and raised by local government and city councils and has been a pressing concern, as a result of insurgent of such incidences across Australia. At present, there aare no products or solutions available in the market that can address the current issue with traffic lights.

Energy absorbing bollard (EAB) concept developed by IAS can be applied to traffic lights. The core of the project would be design and development of energy absorbing traffic lights (EATL). In EAB, an energy transfer mechanism in the form of cartridge, which has a crumbling zone installed in underground foundation absorbs the kinetic energy of the vehicle in the event of impact, without inducing a plastic deformation of the bollard above the ground. This concept was tested by IAS and EABs are currently installed in many locations in Australia. However, due to the nature of shape, mass, length, size, location of traffic lights, the current EAB concept requires redesign to suit and address the EATL. The goal is to create an EATL capable of arresting an out-of-control vehicle and significantly reduce injures of pedestrians waiting around the traffic light, without destroying the traffic lights. Therefore, this project will focus on a new design of crumpling zone, size, shape, material, and fabrication and installation strategy for EATL. By utilising IAS’s in-house test capacity together with local city councils, a proof of concept of EATL will be tested to validate its efficacy. New EATL design must comply with AS/NZS 3845.2 2017.

The project will leverage IAS’s long years of expertise, experience and market leadership in road safety, and engagement with end users and research organisation to develop a ground breaking EATL product in ensuring road safety for all of us.

Innovative Manufacturing CRC Grant 22nd July 2021
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