The traffic and variety of personal mobility vehicles (PMV) has grown exponentially in recent years. A study by the MAPFRE Foundation estimates that around 1,200,000 people use e-scooters and electric bikes in Spain every day. However, despite the emergence of these new modes of mobility, there are still no systems that allow us to monitor and control their use accurately and efficiently, which has a negative impact on traffic management, the new modes of mobility and, ultimately, road safety.
Now, the Traffic Control Systems team from the Universitat Politècnica de València's Institute of Information and Communication Technologies (ITACA) has designed, developed and approved the first road sensor that is tailored for personal mobility vehicles. The sensor uses magnetic loops and it is capable of recording and categorising the use of PMVs. Implementing this will help us to monitor new modes of mobility and, in particular, road safety, both for pedestrians and the other vehicles that travel around the city every day. Patented by the UPV, it has been designed, developed and approved for urban settings and it can be installed on streets and roads with PMV traffic, either for reserved or shared lanes and one or two-way traffic.
“While conventional vehicles are carefully monitored through the various sensors that are widely installed in cities, scooters, bikes and other personal mobility vehicles lack accurate and efficient tools to perform this monitoring. This situation has negative repercussions at several levels, most importantly with regard to safety, as current technologies are not able to monitor how they are being used, the traffic flows of PMVs and interactions with other users or to detect potential hazards for each of them. The system that we have designed and approved allows us to obtain highly valuable information using an extremely cheap and reliable circuit”, remarks Antonio Mocholí, Director of the Traffic Control Systems team at the Universitat Politècnica de València's Institute of Information and Communication Technologies (ITACA).
The system, devised in the laboratories of ITACA-UPV, is an improvement on the current magnetic loop sensors used for motorised vehicles and it provides highly useful tools for remotely analysing PMV traffic. One benefit is that it instantly obtains information about speed and direction of travel, making it possible to calculate traffic density in a given area; and even the types of scooters (based on their power) and the model of vehicle.
“The sensor is able to detect the magnetic footprint of each model of electric scooter and this allows us to identify its category and brand. Monitoring these parameters helps to improve compliance with municipal regulations and implement proper mobility planning, including the management of traffic lights, infrastructures and routes when roadworks and maintenance are being carried out, etc.”, notes Carlos Moyano Gómez, who is studying for a Bachelor's Degree in Telecommunication Technologies and Systems Engineering at the School of Telecommunications Engineering, who took part in this research as part of his bachelor's thesis.
The invention has been well-received in the forums where we have presented it. “In this regard, the Spanish Road Association, a leading institution both domestically and in Europe, has welcomed the research that was conducted and noted that the widespread implementation of this system would play a vital role in the development of sustainable mobility in urban settings”, adds Antonio Martinez Millana, a researcher from the ITACA Research Institute.
The development of this system was the central theme of the Ferran Mocholí Belenguer's doctoral thesis, the result of over 4 years of work. “Ferran passed away in September 2021 and the Institute wanted to pay tribute to him and make the whole of society aware of the results of his research and the contribution he made. We deeply regret the loss of an exceptional human being because, besides being an outstanding researcher, above all, Ferran was a colleague who was full of kindness and goodness”, remarks José Manuel Catalá, the director of the Universitat Politècnica de València's ITACA Research Institute.