|Advances in the automobile industry require for our infrastructure to be engineered in line with new technologies. It is very common to see Kenyans importing vehicles whose full capability cannot be utilized in this country, owing to the nature of our infrastructure, especially in the used vehicles market segment. We import vehicles designed to be driven on roads with no speed bumps i.e. with very low ground clearance yet, most of our roads have speed bumps including illegal ones. The interventions that our informal sector offer go against logic and compromise on safety, like use of spacers or fitting of wheels with larger radius than the original equipment manufacturers (OEM) recommendation, that raises vehicles’ center of gravity and make it easy for the center of mass to move outside the base of support. We also buy vehicles with functions that are not well supported by our existing road infrastructure, for example the cruise control function cannot be effectively utilized with the current state of road infrastructure in Kenya. In this article some advances in the automobile industry that road designers will have to incorporate in their designs have been enumerated, if we have to keep on importing used vehicles otherwise we will need to have vehicles specified for our market or batter still develop our own vehicle manufacturing industry, which will also be subject to 1958 agreement, 1998 agreement UN global technical regulations and other internationally harmonized regulations. In keeping in tune with this advance it will imply that the cost of these designs will be very high something we will have to content with for us to enjoy safer motoring.|
Line departure function.
Many modern vehicles are equipped with the capability to confirm drivers’ intention to change lines or to warn a driver if the vehicle departs from its line at an area where change of lines is not permissible. The state of our road markings makes it impossible for the full realization of the full potential this function. Our roads designers need to adopt universally acceptable road making and ensure that road marking materials are more permanent and do not fade easily after exposure to the elements. A good candidate material for road making would be hot applied thermoplastic used with reflective glass beads. There is need to incorporate intelligent streets and highways marking systems and machines that help in recording the vehicles speeds, motoring conditions, temperature and communicating it to vehicles sensor system.
Vehicle to Infrastructure communication (V to I).
The automobile industry is advancing towards autonomous driving which requires vehicle to infrastructure communication as with vehicle to vehicle, it is important for a vehicle to know position and distance some infrastructure installations such as guardrails in a bridge, traffic lights and utility lines just to mention a few. It is therefore important for our roads infrastructure designers to anticipate such developments and make provision for the installation of communication gadgets when the need will arise. Most of the new innovations will be in data shearing infrastructure.
The Radar systems.
Radio detection and ranging (Radar) will be very useful tool in gathering data on speeds of vehicles and objects around an autonomous vehicle. The radar system has been the first choice of many car manufactures as a collision avoidance system. The efficacy of this system is a function of how a road infrastructure meanders; road infrastructure designers should consider the maximum angle of bends within which a reflected radio signal will reach a detector. The current situation is not encouraging as some roads especially those being by the county governments have very severe bends with no bunking and if a vehicle with such systems is driven on such roads the systems are rendered useless.
General Packet Radio Service (GPRS) accuracy is dependent on weather, land masses, proximity to high rise buildings, vegetation and resolution of the equipment. Infrastructure designers in Kenya need to take into account these factors and ensure that our current design can accommodate more installations like earth satellites, given that some car manufactures have gone a step further to improve the accuracy of these system by adding earth satellites to GPS (Global Positioning System) to mitigate the challenge of high rise buildings and weather in Germany. This also explains why the height of buildings next to aviation installations should be controlled besides the issue of visibility. The Kenya National Highways Authority is doing a commendable job of ensuing all roads under their jurisdiction have cleared reserves. All other players in this sector should emulate this for us to enjoy safe motorable roads that can accommodate and support any standard road moving vehicle irrespective of the technology used.
The camera is also another important device that is very use in data acquisition and assisting in decision making with regard to position of the vehicle especially when parking. For effective use of this device it is imperative that installations and markings on infrastructure are well resolved. The parktronics are already in use and self parking cars have already been rolled out. This has resulted in a dilemma in insurance as who should take responsibility in case of an accident in autonomous parking, is it the responsibility of the car manufacturer, vehicle owner or the insurer? Infrastructure designers should always strive to eliminate all blind spots for effective acquisition and transfer of data. Achievement of autonomous mobility will largely depend on data interchangeability between vehicles, infrastructure and pedestrians.
Road side charging systems for electric vehicle.
The Nissan leaf (an electric vehicle) is already in use for taxi services in Kenya. This vehicle as stated in an article in the May/June 2018 edition of the Kenya engineer magazine has a range of 273 km per single charge, implying that it stall suffers from range anxiety. Our road infrastructure developers should take into consideration this development and incorporate road side charging systems in roads designs. This is a business opportunity in the energy sectors as the case with gas stations. As technology evolve it will became necessary to incorporate inductive charging systems in road sections design as well.
Artificial intelligence (AI) will govern all the new innovations in the automobile industry. Autonomous driving will first be achieved in those countries whose infrastructure incorporates some of the highlighted communication gadgets and data acquisition sensors. Kenya is still at SAE (society of automotive engineers) level 1, in which an automated system on a vehicle can sometimes assist the human driver conduct some part of the driving task. Movement to SAE level 2 of driving automation will be a function of our infrastructure compatibility with advances in the automobile industry, in which an automated system on vehicle can actually conduct some driving task while the human driver continues to monitor the driving environment and perform the rest of the driving tasks e.g. the cruise control.
SAE levels 3, 4 and 5 of automation are still a distance challenge to all players in the motoring industry, in which road designers and policy makers must include the anticipated developments in their designs and policies. Meanwhile our emphasis should be on driver assist systems other than autonomous driving to improve the safety standards on our roads.