Home » News »

How to Detect Ice on Roads? Our Students Research This Idea

phot. BPI

Near the end of winter examinations, the students stumbled upon information about a competition organised by Valeo. The deadline was just a few days away. They decided to send an idea they had already discussed and analysed. Their solution is one of 24 propositions from the entire world that qualified to the semi-finals of Valeo Innovation Challenge 2017.

It’s an international competition for students, giving them an opportunity to create innovative and useful solutions and practices for the automotive industry. Ideas are submitted in two categories: “New ways of using cars” and “Technological Innovation”. The competition was very strong: 1,628 projects were sent from 80 countries and 748 universities. 70 Valeo experts and independent scientists selected the best projects.

The SPMIP team from the Warsaw University of Technology qualified to the semi-finals in the category “Technological Innovation”. It is one of 13 such teams, one of five from Europe, and the only one from Poland. This success was achieved by three of our students: Maksymilian Krajewski from the Faculty of Civil Engineering, Krystian Rosłon from the Faculty of Physics, and Mateusz Zaborski from the Faculty of Electronics and Information Technology. “We’ve known each other for years. We prepared many projects together, not just scientific ones”, says Mateusz Zaborski. “One time, we began to wonder how to detect ice build-up on roads while driving a car. We noticed that there is nothing like this in modern cars”.

State of Matter is Everything

Our students are working on a road ice sensor, mounted on a car, working regardless of ice thickness and surface type. Ice thickness is not crucial. The idea is to detect it, warn about bad road conditions, and therefore increase our safety. Concerning surface types, it will be necessary to study them, and then write dedicated algorithms that will enable analysing and processing road information.

In its project, the WUT team decided to focus on the state of water on the road, and not only on measuring temperature near the car, which is often used, but tends to be very unreliable. Ice does not always appear on roads when the air temperature drops below 0. Obtaining information about the condition of the road is also difficult due to the use of salt; it distorts reality, because it does not influence ambient temperature sensors, but it does melt the ice. “The water can have, let’s say, -5 degrees Celsius, but still remain in its liquid state, i.e. not as dangerous as ice”, explains Maksymilian Krajewski.

“What we want to do is based on changing the water absorption coefficient in different states”, adds Krystian Rosłon. “Our device will analyse the state of water on the road and take appropriate actions, if it detects ice”.

The WUT team’s detector is supposed to be slightly larger than a standard cell phone, and slightly thicker. Miniaturisation will be possible once it reaches mass manufacture.

phot. SPMIP Team

Ambitious Plans and a Single Goal

In the first stage of the Valeo Innovation Challenge, participants needed to submit a description of their ideas; list solutions currently used on the market, their faults, and offer a method that solves currently known problems. The project had to be based on science: either using own calculations or referring to other papers. Our students used, among other things, articles published in Nature.

Semi-finalists have until 13 July 2017 to develop and test their ideas. To this end, each team received 5 thousand euros from Valeo. Our students admit that they have several ideas on how to proceed with the road ice problem. They are currently perfecting them and conducting research to select the best one. “We consider costs, speed, and accuracy”, states Krystian Rosłon. “We aim at a solution that will be affordable to mass produce”, adds Maksymilian Krajewski. “We are bound by the competition’s rule of secrecy, so we cannot say everything about the project”.

The WUT team wants to create a prototype of its device and test it using a car bought especially for this task. “It is a 1:10 scale car, approx. 50 cm long, self-driving”, says Mateusz Zaborski. “We want to show that when a car drives on ice with our detector, it will begin emergency braking earlier than when it drives on dry asphalt”.

Maksymilian Krajewski adds that they mean braking in front of obstacles. “The car will be equipped with an obstacle sensor, and its task will be to stop at a given distance from this obstacle”, he says.

Our students also plan to test how the device works in a real car. “We would like to avoid damage, so we will probably use some kind of audio or visual alarm that will inform us when our detector detects ice on the road”, says Krystian Rosłon.

From Discussion to Success

8 ideas will qualify to the finals of Valeo Innovation Challenge. Results will be announced on 13 September. On 26 October, the best projects will be presented before the jury in Paris, and the winners will be announced on the next day. The reward for the best teams (in each of two categories) is 100 thousand euros, while teams in second places will receive 10 thousand euros each. The winners will be also able to establish their own start-up as part of Valeo’s incubator programme.

Young engineers from the University emphasise that their objective is to place the solution on the market regardless of competition results. They want their idea to be implemented in both autonomous and manually-driven cars. At the same time, they state that there may be different versions of their idea for different car types. The idea that was born in friendly discussion, and may well transform into a great business success.


Agnieszka Kapela

Office for Promotion and Information