Strides are continually being made in road safety engineering. Making roads safer and more efficient is the work of civil engineers across the globe. The safest option would be automating all cars around the world. Ford, Google, Mercedes-Benz, Tesla and Uber are looking at their implementation in the United States by 2021, but that is still some time away and there are still a few kinks that need to be addressed.
Consequently, engineers are in charge of producing novel approaches to road safety up until human error can be taken out of the equation.
In a report by the U.S. Department of Transportation's Federal Highway Administration, transportation engineers have taken a second look at what affects the crashworthiness of a guardrail.
“Because these crashworthiness tests are conducted with vehicles traveling at a speed of 100 kilometers per hour (62 miles per hour), if a vehicle hits a guardrail at a higher speed, the guardrail may not operate optimally.”
The Colorado Department of Transportation recently inspected their guardrails state wide. They found that 144 sections of guardrail would not be able to absorb the energy of a crash, which in turns put their drivers in danger.
The Federal Highway Administration was defrauded in 2005 by an engineering company known as Trinity Industries. Trinity changed the design of their guardrails without alerting the Administration. The guardrails were found to be unsafe, failing to prevent eight or more deadly accidents.
The following situation reveals the complexity involved. Recently the Department of Transport’s Spokesperson Mark Nagi was required to respond to questions about a crash on a road that had neither guardrails nor barriers.
The crash occurred in Cumberland County in Maine in November 2016. A truck barrelled from the eastbound roadway into the westbound roadway and smashed into a car hauler and another passenger vehicle. The three drivers involved in the accident died.
“We simply cannot design or construct a guardrail that is completely safe in every situation. There is always a hazard associated with a vehicle hitting a guardrail,” Nagi said.
According to InterestingEngineering.com, 1.25 million die as a result of a road traffic crash. These crashes sometimes involve motorists losing control and hitting guardrails.
This issue aside, engineers are trying to figure out how to implement a ‘one size fits all’ approach to guardrails. They know that the speed at which a vehicle approaches a guardrail and the size of the vehicle, could produce several different results.
The question is: Can guardrails be designed to prevent horrible accidents and death?
The new designs
Korean engineers from a company named ETI Ltd. believe they have re-invented the guardrail. They believe that their design will ensure a safer guardrail collision.
The barriers have aptly been named ‘roller rails’. High-speed impacts, as shown on the video, redirect the car back into the lane the car initially came from through rotational energy. This is compared to the alternative, which would be hitting a guardrail straight on and seeing a sizable amount of damage as a result.
The video has been shared around the internet and subsequently gone viral. However, the designs are not entirely new. An Australian company named KSI Global had virtually identical guardrail designs years ago; shown in a video that dates back to 2014.
“Safety roller will minimize the damage of people and vehicles by absorbing collision shock,” says KSI Global. The company also says installation and maintenance costs will be significantly lower compared to traditional guardrail installations.
The rolling barrier system is yet to be adopted by the majority of countries; however a trial is being run in Malaysia.
The one concern with this system that has experts worried is that cars will be deflected back into other cars.
Sorokanich, Bob. "This Roller Guardrail Seems Brilliant, Except For One Major Problem." Road & Track. 10 Feb. 2017. Web. 21 Feb. 2017.
Tegna. "10Investigates: Guardrail Guidelines." WBIR. Web. 21 Feb. 2017.
"This New Korean Rolling Barrier System Could Save Millions of Lives." Interesting Engineering. 20 Nov. 2016. Web. 21 Feb. 2017.