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The road to intelligent weigh stations.

The proposed Intelligent Vehicle-Highway System (SN: 3/21/92, p. 184) paints a futuristic picture of ultra-efficient transportation, including roads capable of automatically weighing trucks as they rumble along. Already, researchers at Oak Ridge (Tenn.) National Laboratory have developed a portable "scale" that could smarten up the highway.

The new device determines a vehicle's weight by measuring how much light passes through an optical fiber -- made of pliable silicone rubber and housed in protective materials placed on the road. A heavy truck deforms the sensor more than a car does, so that less light passes through. A detector converts the light signal to an electric signal, which leeds into a roadside computer. The computer analyzes the information and reports the weight borne at each axle as well as that o! the entire vehicle. With sensors placed in an N-shaped configuration, the device can even measure a vehicle's "footprint" to determine its speed, says principal investigator Jeffrey Muhs.

Unlike the conventional weigh station, the new system does not interrupt traffic flow and moves easily from one location to another, says Muhs. However, road quality does affect its margin of error, which is 1 to 3 percent under optimum conditions. "If you put the device on a gravel road, you're not going to get nearly as accurate a result as you would on a nice, smooth concrete or asphalt road," he notes.

International Road Dynamics, a company based in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, plans to begin manufacturing the device in the town of Oak Ridge. Within a year the firm expects to use the sensors to collect data about traffic flow, says Muhs. Then it hopes to use the sensors in a low-cost weigh station that will identify vehicles with weights near the legal limit. The screening system, hooked up to a roadside message hoard, would allow lightweights to cruise but would signal for overloaded trucks to pull over.
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Title Annotation:new device measures how much light passes through an optical fiber placed on the road to weigh vehicles
Publication:Science News
Article Type:Brief Article
Date:Jun 12, 1993
Words:315
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