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If cars were tagged - Part 3

This article continues the series about how UHF RFID –tagged cars and RFID readers along roadsides are useful for different interest groups. In this article we will discuss how the police and safety authorities would benefit from the system.

Co-authors: Markus Nuutinen, Joni Rahkonen, Niina Poutane and Michiel Ploeger of Turun Ammattikorkeakoulu, Salo, as part of a school project.

THE CONCEPT OF "SMART CARS" AND "CAR IDs"

A "smart car" is a car that has been equipped with an UHF RFID tag containing an encrypted and secure ID code - here referred to as a "car ID".

In the previous articles of this series we have discussed how "smart cars" affect the lives of car owners and car service providers. Now we're going to take a look at "smart cars" from another perspective and discuss how they might change the working day of a police officer and safety/rescue team members. We already scratched the surface of the safety and anti-crime aspects in the first two articles, but we will dig deeper into the subject here.

SCANNING VEHICLES FOR SAFETY PURPOSES

In order for the concept of "smart cars" and RFID readers along the roadside to be of any use from a safety point of view, the system requires the all or at least most of the following ingredients:

  • Obligatory UHF RFID tags on cars
  • Installation of RFID readers along all major roads as a part of our everyday traffic
  • UHF RFID readers in the hands of the police and other safety authorities
  • A secure and trustworthy backend system
  • Tagged driver's licenses - aka "smart driver's licenses" - would definitely be a plus

UHF RFID readers, today, have the capability to read tags that are as far away as 8 meters (approx. 26 feet). This distance might be enough for small and medium sized roads where the roads are narrow and the speed limits are low. For effective reading of cars on bigger roads and highways and in high speed areas, there might still be room for development in order to achieve a trustworthy scanning system. But, let's leave that to the engineer-geeks and continue to visualize what this system would look like and how it would operate.

Shutterstock _84307765_traffic _web

HOW WOULD THE SYSTEM WORK?

By installing RFID readers along the roads with adequate spacing, a smart car could be detected and traced throughout its journey when necessary. With the word "necessary" I mean, whenever there are valid reasons for tracking a particular vehicle. The system would not be allowed to make records of unsuspected cars' journeys.

The reader network would work as follows. Fixed and/or mobile RFID readers scan the UHF RFID tag of a pulled over or passing car. Some of the information on the tag can be achieved directly without contact with the backend system (for safety reasons in case of traffic accidents etc.). More sensitive information such as owner details, tax/insurance dates, unpaid fines etc. could be requested from a secure cloud-based central system that grants access permission only to authorized police and safety authority personnel.

Tags located inside on a car's windshield would probably consist of a waterproof passive GEN2 sticker tag, since it more or less lasts forever and operates well on speeding vehicles even in poor weather conditions. So called "e-plates" (tagged license plates) will mostly operate with active or semi-active tags that can be powered by the car's own battery. Active tags that consistently transmit to RFID readers are easier to detect. Multiple tags can be read simultaneously by a single reader at speeds up to 320 km/h (200mph) from a distance of up to 100 meters (300 feet).

In places like the UK, Australia, Brazil, Bermuda and many others, similar systems are already being developed and tested.

CRASHES AND OTHER TRAFFIC ACCIDENTS

Traffic accidents are an unfortunate reality that safety authorities have to deal with. When it comes to saving lives, seconds do matter, and it's important that the rescue team gets as much information as fast as they can. UHF RFID tags, containing information about the vehicle, come in handy e.g. when the roof of a car has to be cut open in order to save the passenger. Some newer cars are so filled with complex technical solutions that one slight move in the wrong direction, like an air bag that accidently inflates, can be fatal for the passenger. In order to avoid this, safety personnel could scan the UHF RFID tag in the windshield/license plate and get thorough instructions on how to remove the roof safely. The most significant advantage of this system is that the information could be accessed quickly and, that it is not dependent on fast working 3/4G or satellite connections.

Shutterstock _101595898_traffic -accident _web


We could take this idea a little further by adding UHF tagged driver's licenses to the equation. Since they could be scanned without visual contact, these "smart driver's licenses" could identify the victim in seconds without having to search for the driver's license. Crucial health information could be obtained without as much as a glance at the victim. This information, though, would have to be behind encrypted codes in the backend system.

UHF RFID-TAGGED CARS TO STOP SPEEDING HOOLIGANS AND OTHER OFFENDERS

There are two ways that UHF RFID readers could catch speeding hooligans in the act. Both systems actually already exist, but they use cameras instead of RFID to identify the cars.

  1. RFID readers that are connected to speed meters. The speed meter estimates at what speed the vehicle is moving and the RFID reader identifies the car. The information is combined and sent to the backend system where a juicy fine is written and sent to the offender.
  2. RFID readers along the roadsides identify passing vehicles at several points of the journey and calculate the average speed of the vehicle. If a vehicle passing a road RFID reader reaches the next RFID reader too soon to be driving at a legal speed, the information once again is passed on to the backend system and a fine is automatically sent to the offender.

Regardless of which of the two systems is in use, RFID technology will give the police and safety authorities a more accurate and trustworthy identification of the vehicles, no matter what the weather is like and how dirty the license plate is. The system does not only detect speeders, it can also be designed to be on the look-out for vehicles that are reported stolen or car owners that are wanted by the authorities.

ACTIVE TRAFIC SIGNS

In some areas or weather conditions 3/4G and satellite connections are less than effective and the updating process is slow. This means that the navigator system might not always be up-to-date no matter how fancy and expensive. Traffic signs and changed speed limits are hard to detect in poor weather conditions and road maintenance personnel is constantly living in danger.

The answer to this problem could be "talking traffic signs" - RFID equipped traffic signs that talk to the cruise control system in the vehicles. For more information about this fascinating subject, read this article: An RFID-Based Intelligent Vehicle Speed Controller Using Active Traffic Signs.

Shutterstock _81411202_road -maintenance _web

CHALLENGES OF THE SYSTEM

When it comes to RFID identification we are always facing two challenges: implementation costs and privacy issues. Both of them can be hard to overcome, but it this particular case it is far from impossible.

The implementation costs of a system like this would fall on the government - meaning, the tax payers. That is never fun, but in this case the system would also save the tax payers money by atomizing the fine writing process. A more efficient identification system means more caught offenders, which means more fine incomes. But most importantly, less traffic hooligans means less traffic accidents and that saves both lives and money.

The privacy issue is best tackled by reminding the public that the backend systems would be secure and accessible only to authorized personnel.  And the truth is, these people can already access the information if necessary. They already have the permissions and equipment.

As with the internet, GPS navigators and telephones, all innovations can be used for both good and bad. But this fact will not stop us from making innovations. Curiosity is in the human nature. And, a system that saves traffickers' lives, creates a safer workplace for police officers and rescue teams as well as ensures that crucial information is accessible in an emergency situation, is definitely worth discussing. 

SOURCES AND RECOMMENDED READING:

If cars were tagged - Part 1 - from the car owners' point of view

If cars were tagged - Part 2 - from the car service providers' point of view

http://hal.archives-ouvertes.fr/docs/00/73/74/05/PDF/An_RFID-Based_Intelligent_Vehicle_Speed_Controller_Using_Active_Traffic_Signals.pdf

http://www.rfidnews.org/2004/06/10/rfid-enabled-license-plates-to-identify-uk-vehicles

http://www.rfidjournal.com/article/articleview/1078/1/1/

http://www.transcore.com/pdf/RFIDJ_BermudaVehicleReg_18May07.pdf

http://www.zdnet.com/rfid-tracked-cars-coming-to-australia-and-nz-1339287816/

Zerohora- RFID in cars in Brazil

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