Scientists develop sensor technology to monitor electric scooters

A research team from the Polytechnic University of Valencia has developed novel sensor technology to monitor electric scooters in bike lanes.

Why has this sensor technology been created?

The traffic and range of personal mobility vehicles (PMV) in Spain has expanded exponentially in recent years; a study conducted by the MAPFRE Foundation estimates that around 1,200,000 people use e-scooters and electric bikes in Spain every day. However, despite the development of these new modes of mobility, there is still no sensor technology that allows us to monitor and control their use accurately and efficiently, which has a destructive impact on traffic management, the new modes of mobility and road safety.

How do the sensors work?

Currently, the Traffic Control Systems team from the Institute of Information and Communication Technologies (ITACA) at Polytechnic University of Valencia has designed, developed, and approved the first road sensor that is tailored for personal mobility vehicles.

The innovative sensor uses magnetic loops, and it is capable of recording and categorising the use of PMVs. This means that new modes of mobility can be monitored as well as road safety, both for pedestrians and the other vehicles that travel around the city every day.

Patented by the UPV, the sensor has been constructed, created, and certified 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.

Antonio Mocholí, Director of the Traffic Control Systems team at the Polytechnic University of Valencia’s Institute of Information and Communication Technologies (ITACA) explained: “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.”

The innovative sensor system was constructed in the laboratories at ITACA-UPV, and it is an improvement on the current magnetic loop sensors used for motorised vehicles, as it provides highly useful tools for remotely analysing PMV traffic.

An additional advantage is that the innovative sensor instantly obtains information about speed and direction of travel, which makes 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.

How will this be implemented in the future?

Carlos Moyano Gómez, student from the School of Telecommunications and Engineering noted: “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.”

The invention sensor technology has been well-received in the forums where we have presented it.

Antonio Martinez Millana, a researcher from the ITACA Research Institute added: “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.”

The development of this system was the central theme of the Ferran Mocholí Belenguer’s doctoral thesis, the result of over four 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,” concluded José Manuel Catalá, the director of the Polytechnic University of Valencia’s ITACA Research Institute.

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