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Mercedes-Benz to Use Vehicle Sensor Data to Monitor Road Conditions in Real-Time in a New Large-Scale Pilot in the Netherlands

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【Summary】Mercedes Benz was just awarded a major contract by the Netherlands’ Ministry of Infrastructure and Water Management (Min I&W) to monitor the condition of country's roads in real-time using sensor data collected from Mercedes Benz connected vehicles. The project is one of the world’s first large-scale digital infrastructure agreements.

Eric Walz    Mar 31, 2022 10:00 AM PT
Mercedes-Benz to Use Vehicle Sensor Data to Monitor Road Conditions in Real-Time in a New Large-Scale Pilot in the Netherlands

Automaker Mercedes Benz was just awarded a major contract by the Netherlands' Ministry of Infrastructure and Water Management (Min I&W) to monitor the country's roads using sensor data collected from Mercedes Benz connected vehicles.

The project is one of the world's first large-scale digital infrastructure agreements.

The road monitoring project will be two years in length and it covers three key areas of road maintenance: winter management, asset management and road safety. The Road Monitor program (ROMO) will extend across all provinces of the Netherlands with a road network of more than 130,000 kilometers (80,800 miles). 

The project partners will use advanced software analytics to collect anonymized data from Mercedes-Benz vehicles to help ensure greater safety for all road users. The raw data will come from vehicle-to-infrastructure (V2X) and vehicle-to-vehicle (V2V) communications technology or other systems from intelligent and connected Mercedes-Benz vehicles.

V2X refers to technologies with which vehicles exchange information with nearby vehicles and roadside units in real-time, without requiring Wi-Fi or a cellular connection. It is already offered in The E- and S-Class models

Using V2V communication can warn other drivers of hazards in real time. For example, if a vehicle hits a patch of black ice, the information can be sent to other E and S-Class models in less than a second. It essentially turns a vehicle into a warning device, as well as a road condition monitor.

Mercedes-Benz said it will work closely with the Dutch authorities to provide valuable and easy-to-use insights that will help make cities and communities more liveable by improving road safety.

"Winning this important reference project in Europe for intelligent road monitoring marks a major step forward for Mercedes-Benz in our clearly stated aim to lead in car software," says Daniel Deparis, Head of Urban Mobility Solutions, Mercedes-Benz Group AG. "By scaling up our high-impact road-monitoring solutions, we are actively fostering our vision of accident-free driving and making an important contribution to general road safety in the Netherlands." 

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For the road safety part of the program with the Netherlands' Min I&W, Mercedes-Benz Urban Mobility Solutions will provide a data dashboard that will help identify potential collision hotspots before collisions have even occurred using "near-accident data" collected from the advanced driver assist systems (ADAS) of Mercedes-Benz vehicles. 

For example, suppose there is a specific stretch of road in the Netherlands that's especially hazardous when its raining. If drivers approach the area and the vehicle ADAS intervenes after detecting wheel slippage, the vehicle data can be used by Netherlands' Min I&W identify the precise location of hazardous areas, or to make road improvements in the future. 

When combined with additional public data sources and existing data on historical collision events, the trove of data provides city planners with targeted insights to make better road improvement decisions. 

The ROMO program can also evaluate the effectiveness of measures taken in the past, such as reducing the speed limit to determine if it has mitigated the hazards experienced by drivers.

Mercedes-Benz can also share this road data with other nearby vehicles using V2V communications technology, to warn drivers they are approaching areas where a vehicle's ADAS has frequently intervened to help a driver maintain control, such as a sharp curve. The data will also help to detect and analyze these locations throughout the Netherlands as the connected vehicles traverse them.

For the winter management part of the pilot, Mercedes-Benz will merge anonymized V2X data with external sources, such as weather stations managed by the Dutch road authorities to identify adverse road conditions in real time. 

When a vehicle's Electronic Stability Control (ESC) or Anti-Lock Brake System (ABS) sensors detect low road friction from snow or ice, the anonymized data, which also includes GPS information, is sent to the Mercedes-Benz Vehicle Cloud via the mobile communications network. 

Once processed in the backend, the information can then be sent to digital maps and dashboards in road maintenance depots, enabling quick and effective deployment of the necessary resources to identify and correct any wintery road hazards.

The winter road monitoring was first piloted by Mercedes-Benz in the mountainous Zollernalb region of Germany, located in the Swabian Alps. It helped road maintenance crews identify areas where freezing may occur, so additional road salt or sand could be applied to improve traction in these areas where it has the best benefit.

For Asset Management pat of the project, Mercedes-Benz says its setting a new standard in predictive infrastructure. It will identify road problems and damage to infrastructure based on vehicle data. The road monitoring program in the Netherlands will support maintenance of the roads network. For example, if multiple vehicles hit the same pothole, the precise location is captured by the vehicle's sensors upon impact with the vehicle's suspension. 

The data can also be used to determine if a pothole is getting bigger and based on data collected after a vehicle's tire travels over it. This information can be used to prioritize the deployment of maintenance resources.

In addition to detecting potholes, a connected vehicle's camera can be used to identify faded and difficult to see lane and road shoulder markings, or missing or damaged traffic signs. Honda Motor Co is piloting a similar road project in Ohio using data collected from its vehicle cameras. 

Another important part of the monitoring program is an easy-to-use front end for stakeholders called the "Mercedes-Benz Data Dashboard". Working collaboratively with experts and users from the Dutch authorities, Mercedes-Benz Urban Mobility Solutions will visualize the findings from its data analysis in simple interfaces, which are custom built for specific needs of the three key areas of road monitoring.

All of the data collected from vehicles is completely anonymized, according to Mercedes-Benz. The automaker says that the responsible handling and protection of data is a top priority.

Vehicle data can only be transmitted and used if the owner of the car has given consent in the "Mercedes me" vehicle companion app. Mercedes-Benz said its does not share raw data and no aspect of the data is physically traceable to the source vehicle.

Mercedes Benz has been a pioneer in vehicle safety systems over the years. The automaker has up to 45 different cutting-edge ADAS already contributing to traffic safety by mitigating the effects of a collision or avoiding it altogether. 

Now with recent advancements in data aggregation and processing data gathered from vehicle safety systems and via the Mercedes-Benz Vehicle Cloud in real-time, the company said it now has the capability to extend these safety benefits outside the immediate scope of its own vehicles to help improve road safety for all users.

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