Nov 23, 2017 | By Benedict

Three engineers from Germany’s Saarland University have used 3D printing to develop the “Ghostbuster,” a sensor system that alerts drivers if a vehicle is driving into oncoming traffic. The system can also automatically alert the authorities, leading to safer roads.

Benjamin Kirsch, Daniel Gillo, and Julian Neu with their 3D printed traffic safety system

In the German language, the word “Geisterfahrer” literally means “ghost driver.” It has no English equivalent, and might therefore prove a stumbling block for Anglophones trying to learn German. What could it mean? Ghouls in ghostly vehicles? A slang term for Tesla’s autopilot system? A new Nicholas Cage movie?

In reality, “Geisterfahrer” simply refers to somebody driving the wrong way up a road—whether through drunkenness, misinformation, intent to harm, or whatever cause. It’s a big problem in Germany, hence the specific term, and the presence of 2,200 ghost drivers last year persuaded three engineers from Saarland University to come up with a way to nullify these wrong-way hazards.

These engineers, Benjamin Kirsch, Daniel Gillo, and Julian Neu, have come up with a solution they’ve cleverly called the “Ghostbuster.” Unlike in the movie of the same name, the device doesn’t attempt to catch ghosts, but is instead able to identify cars moving the wrong way up a given lane, alerting the ghost driver, other drivers on the road, and the police.

The young engineers responsible for this smart (and partly 3D printed) system, which uses microphones to pick up the sound of tires on asphalt, believe it could save lives. Because of the sensitivity of the microphones, the system can even detect near-silent e-cars and distinguish between vehicles and animals.

This sound-recording system complements a high-tech delineator fitted with an infrared sensor and two ultrasonic motion sensors, which have a range of around eight meters and which can accurately detect a vehicle’s direction of travel.

(Images: Oliver Dietze)

Data from the sensors is processed in the Ghostbuster’s micro-controller “brain,” which is about the size of two matchboxes, and which is able to make a decision on what course of action to prescribe. In some instances—if a car is moving very slowly and there are no other cars on the road, for example—the police may not need to be alerted.

Once a ghost driver has been identified, alerts are provided in the form of LED lights, flashing the ghost driver as well as cars going the right way who are now at risk of a head-on collision. The police, who actually collaborated with the Saarland engineers to explain how the information should be formatted for them, can be alerted via SMS.

For the prototype Ghostbuster, the engineers used their office-based 3D printer to fabricate many plastic parts, with off-the-shelf technical components acquired separately. The system is powered by solar panels and a rechargeable battery and, if it ends up being installed on roads, there would be a sensor post every 50 meters, so that cars all the way down a road could be alerted to the imminent danger.

There are, however, improvements to be made for a final version: making it weatherproof, for example, and various other aspects that will hopefully convince Germany’s Department of Transportation to adopt the model. According to the engineers, the Department is already very keen on the idea.

Things are looking positive for the Ghostbuster in other ways too. The engineers won first place for their idea at the 2016 edition of COSIMA, the Competition of Students in Microsystems Applications. They have also applied for an Exist scholarship in order to form a startup at Saarland’s Gründer Campus, making use of a 30,000 euro ($35,500) starter fund.

Kirsch, Gillo, and Neu are currently in Beijing, where they are hoping to be recognized for their ingenuity at the iCan global innovation competition.

Their goal is to have the Ghostbuster system set up in many parts of Germany within two years.

 

 

Posted in 3D Printing Application

 

 

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