Safer Roads: New Smart Infrastructure Developed To Improve Road Safety


Crash cushions that alert the police in case of an accident, wall claddings for tunnels and underpasses that contribute to road safety, and intelligent urban parapets for roads capable of identifying risk situations and alerting users. These are the most recent collaboration results initiated two years ago by researchers from the Universitat Politècnica de València (UPV), belonging to the ai2 Institute and the company Metalesa.

This equipment, marketed by Metalesa, incorporates software and electronics whose design the ai2 Institute team has participated in. They also have external sensors for visibility, temperature, and air quality, a radar, and thermal cameras; with all these elements, active road safety is provided to citizens, that is to say, the equipment is no longer passive but proactively detects risk situations, of which both road users and traffic management centers, police, etc. are alerted.

“A couple of years ago, Metalesa contacted us to incorporate digital technology into their products with one objective: to improve safety on our roads. We evaluated different solutions and developed prototypes that today are already tangible in products marketed by the company under the brand PLUG&META”, highlights Francisco Blanes, researcher at the ai2 Institute of the UPV.

The first intelligent parapet in the world

In the case of the intelligent urban parapet, the joint team from Metalesa and the UPV defined up to ten different scenarios and behaviors so that its lighting turns on depending on each risk situation. “For example, if a traffic jam on a stretch of road enters the city, the parapet lights up and signals the preceding stretch to warn drivers of such a situation, thus facilitating mobility and traffic management. For example, if a vehicle is detected approaching at an excessive speed or if a person is crossing a pedestrian crossing, the parapet also lights up to warn to avoid an accident. In addition, this smart parapet can also collect information on CO2 levels and send it, along with the rest of the variables, to a data collection platform hosted in the cloud,” says Francisco Blanes.

The first urban parapet equipped with the innovative PLUG&META technology was installed last December on the Bimil-learn bridge in Elche, making it the first parapet with this intelligence and complexity worldwide. “It is one of the most emblematic bridges in the city. The more than 900 installed meters of our system provide many advantages to protect users from, for example, run-offs or run-overs; it is a new paradigm regarding containment systems and equipment for roads and urban areas. It takes them to another level, making them an active agent in the smart city ecosystem,” emphasizes César Valero, director of Digital and Technological Innovation at Metalesa.

Crash cushions in Valencia

This same technology has also been installed in an impact attenuator in Valencia, specifically in front of the Nuevo Centro bus station. “In the event of an accident, and thanks to the versatility of the same technology, this device immediately alerts the local police, thus facilitating the management of this risk situation,” adds César Valero. Meanwhile, the intelligent lining for tunnels can also warn users and the authorities of possible situations that endanger road safety in these environments.

“The collaboration between the ai2 Institute team and Metalesa has made it possible to include digital technology in transport infrastructures, making them intelligent and thus contributing to improving their safety and, above all, saving lives. We are confident that this is the future of road safety equipment; the Ministry of Transport and Sustainable Mobility has selected this concept to test it within its Innovative Public Procurement process, ” concludes César Valero.

The Metalesa team will present these innovative infrastructures with UPV seal at Intertraffic 2024, held from April 16 to 19 in Amsterdam. It will bring together the latest advances in transport infrastructure, innovative road safety solutions, intelligent mobility, and efficient traffic management.

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