NEC, VTTI Unveil AI-Powered Roadway Warning System

Global information technology firm NEC Corporation of America and the Virginia Tech Transportation Institute recently unveiled a new private 5G- and artificial intelligence or AI-based roadway warning system that can identify dangerous traffic conditions and hazards, such as the approach of pedestrians or animals, and provide warnings to motorists.

[Above image via NEC]

NEC and VTTI tested the new system from January to March 2023 in Blacksburg, Virginia, at the Virginia Smart Roads facility – tests that included software-based privacy filtering parameters based on Virginia Department of Transportation requirements.

“This solution combines private 5G and state-of-the-art AI-based video analytics with C-V2X [cellular vehicle-to-everything] technology that contributes to safety and security for vehicles and pedestrians in the vicinity of intersections,” explained Masahiko “Mack” Nakagawa, vice president of the corporate business development division at NEC, in a statement.

“These technologies can identify hazardous situations in areas that can be blind spots for drivers and pedestrians and warn them of such situations,” he added. “This solution can reduce crashes and fatalities, as well as support automated driving from roadside infrastructure.”

The use of 5G is expanding throughout a wide range of fields, and demand for 5G networking is expected to continue growing globally. In response, NEC said it is conducting verification tests, such as these with researchers from VTTI, to develop best practices in effectively using 5G for traffic safety across various frequency bands, technical specifications, and other conditions internationally.

During these tests, cameras and private 5G base stations that are installed on signal poles of VTTI’s private testing facility transmitted high-definition traffic images via private 5G, enabling real-time analysis of the images using AI.

“The concept of infrastructure-cooperative mobility that NEC is aiming for requires highly reliable, low-latency communications via a dedicated network to predict or detect incidents near intersections,” noted Mike Mollenhauer, director of VTTI’s division of technology implementation.

“[We] believe this proof of concept will complement C-V2X technology and improve road safety by informing vehicles and pedestrians of possible traffic hazards when passing through an intersection,” he explained. “VTTI intends to work with NEC to apply the results of these tests to intersections on live public roads.”

The private 5G in this demonstration used the n78 frequency within the shared wireless 3.5 gigahertz spectrum used by the Citizens Broadband Radio Service in the United States. Concurrently, the base stations introduced for private 5G networks within NEC and VTTI’s testing align with specifications developed by the O-RAN Alliance; an industrial organization that promotes an ecosystem of innovative, multi-vendor, interoperable, and autonomous Radio Access Networks.

NEC noted that it plans to leverage the results of these tests to develop “additional technologies” that contribute to the reduction of traffic accidents and traffic congestion throughout the world.

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