Audible Highway Warnings
Improved Highway Safety - RoadTalker
RoadTalker was invented December 1995
This concept was invented and Engineered by December 1995. This
presentation was first placed on the Internet in June 1997.
- RoadTalker is a safety feature for highways, where audio warning
messages are heard by each driver.
- I invented RoadTalker in 1995, in order to provide safety
messages to drivers when a lane is about to end or when a
construction zone is ahead or similar.
- It appears that recently, in 2008, people must have started
to try to use my concept, in Korea and in California, but in
both cases, they merely have their roadway creating MUSIC and
not the far more important AUDIO SAFETY MESSAGES. Maybe they
will figure it out some day!
- In 1995, I had invented both permanent and temporary
(for construction zones) versions, and I had invented both
a groove-based version and a ridges-based version.
- Some Museums have asked me to provide them with a modified
version of Roadtalker for the walls of their Museums, where a
child could wear a stethoscope type headset attached to a stick,
where as they dragged the stick along walls, they can hear
"secret messages" which no one else is aware of!
A new highway safety feature could greatly reduce accidents.
If a tired driver wandered out of a lane, a human voice would
speak a warning message. Before a lane merged or a construction
zone began, a similar audio message would be heard. ALL vehicles would
receive this message, because it would not be electronic, but rather
a series of complex bumps or pits that the tires drive over.
Highway safety has always been a great concern. Many thousands
of people lose their lives every year in highway accidents.
This new invention may be able to save some of those lives.
Driving on highways can become dull and boring. It is easy to get
distracted on a long drive, and become less attentive to the
many potential dangers. An Arizona State Police Officer once
told me that there are a lot of high-speed single-vehicle crashes
on the Interstate highways there. He explained that people had
often already driven many hours before getting to the relatively
uninteresting highway stretches in his state. He mentioned that
some of the accident vehicles were traveling over 100 mph when they
veered off the road, often because the driver had fallen asleep.
Some highway departments have installed bright reflective bumps
on the lane dividers and at the edge of the highway. The flashing
reflected lights (at night) and thumping sounds are advantageous
and have certainly awakened many drivers. There is a wonderful
improvement of this approach! Instead of being alerted by
monotonous thumps, what about if you heard a VOICE warning
you about the impending danger? That is the idea of this invention!
You may have approached a highway toll booth and run over some groups
of ridges or grooves and heard a deep growling sound in your car.
You probably have also driven over a steel bridge that had a deck made
of gratings (mostly so rain could fall through.) When you drove over
those gratings, you heard a singing sound from your tires. Very
few people seem to notice but the speed you drove over the gratings
had an effect on the sound: when you drive faster, the pitch of the
singing is higher.
Modern digital music technology is excellent evidence that any sound
can be duplicated by a sequence of digital values. In the 1980s,
this was first applied to talking dolls that became very popular.
As the technology developed, computer speaking capabilities developed,
and nowadays, EVERYTHING seems to be able to talk, including
I propose to install a sequence of irregular bumps or grooves (either
will work) along a highway. For example, along the edge of the
pavement (before the shoulder) a six-inch wide strip of these bumps or
grooves would be installed. As the tires of the vehicle roll over
them, vibrations are induced in the body of the tire. These vibrations are
conducted through the vehicle's suspension to the body of the vehicle
and finally into the passenger compartment. This is the actual
reason that you hear that growl or singing of your tires as you
pass over the warning ridges or bridge grating.
Instead of keeping the spacing and height and width of the bumps or grooves
consistent, RoadTalker varise each of these characteristics.
By using standard audio sampling methods, ANY verbal message may
be converted into a series of digital amplitude values. By
duplicating this sequence along the highway, THAT AUDIO SOUND is
induced in the tire, which is then heard in the passenger compartment
by the driver. Psychologically, we are extremely alert to the
sound of a human voice, especially in a situation when it is unexpected.
Hearing this verbal warning message would certainly focus the
alertness of the driver immediately, possibly keeping nearly asleep
driver from having a serious accident.
When the word "Warning!" is spoken, it takes about one second.
At highway speed, a vehicle travels about 100 feet per second.
This means that the bumps or grooves would need to be spread out
over a stretch of a hundred feet so the verbal message sounded
correct at that speed. This extended space allows at least one thousand
individual bumps or grooves, enough sound detail to make the verbal
message quite understandable. It wouldn't be of CD or radio quality,
mostly because the relatively large diameter of the vehicle's tire
is in contact with several bumps all at the same time, which sort
of "smears" the resultant sound.
At higher vehicle speed, the message is heard in a higher pitched voice,
and a little more rapidly. At lower speeds, it sounds like a deeper
voice and it is said more slowly. Below about 40 mph, the effect is
somewhat less. There is less impact on the tire, so therefore the loudness
is less. Also, there is even more smearing of the sounds produced,
so the message is less understandable.
There are several separate products possible with RoadTalker.
These message would be permanently installed in the highway surface.
Either wear resistant metal or concrete would be used for bumps/ridges
or a grooving machine would gouge the grooves in the pavement.
- Along the apron of the pavement, the word WARNING seems appropriate.
- When a lane ends, LANE ENDS, MERGE RIGHT or left.
- Where traffic enters, MERGING TRAFFIC AHEAD.
- On lane divider markers, LANE CHANGE!
- Before the warning bumps at a toll booth, PAY TOLL AHEAD!
- When some unexpected circumstance might occur ahead:
- HIGHWAY ENDS!
- DANGEROUS CROSSWINDS AHEAD
- DEER CROSSING!
- DANGEROUS CURVE AHEAD!
- FOG AREA AHEAD!
- CROSS TRAFFIC AHEAD!
Temporary - Construction
During construction periods on a highway, both drivers and highway
construction personnel could benefit from the added safety of this
invention. For this situation, the messages would be imprinted on
a coiled length of durable rubber or similar material. These messages
would be adhered directly in the traffic lanes, such that the vehicle
driver side tires would roll over the digital pattern. By being
created as rolls of rubber, individual messages could be stored
for immediate use by any local highway department. The appropriate
roll would be taken to the site and in a matter of minutes a small crew
could apply the necessary adhesive and unroll the coil. Remembering that
even a single word WARNING! would take a one-hundred-foot
long roll, it may be more practical to store and apply it as half-second
increment sections. The very front edge should be beveled and probably
should also be mechanically anchored to the pavement so it could not
be broken free of the pavement. The same is true at any joints
in the message.
RoadTalker represents a significant additional safety feature that
should be applied to many locations of the highway system. The
expense of the RoadTalker technology is quite moderate, and the
benefits are great, in fewer accidents, injuries and deaths.
I invented RoadTalker in December 1995. This presentation was first placed
on the Internet in June 1997.
This page - -
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This subject presentation was last updated on - -
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Link to the Public Service Science Projects Index
C Johnson, Theoretical Physicist, Physics Degree from Univ of Chicago