If heavy goods vehicles and their trailers are too heavily loaded, or the loads incorrectly distributed, they may constitute a traffic hazard and damage road surfaces.
But stopping vehicles randomly at weigh stations for no good reason -- especially those weighing hundreds of tons – can mean that a lot of fuel is wasted unnecessarily in the stopping and starting process.
Now though, SINTEF, the largest independent research organization in Scandinavia, is heading up the development of a new system called "NonStop" that could offer a novel solution to the weighty problem.
The system makes use of a special piezoelectric cable countersunk into the road surface. The cable generates an electrical voltage when subjected to pressure, and in this way the weight of a vehicle passing over it can be determined and recorded by a computer.
Complementing the road sensor is an automatic number plate recognition system that will read vehicle number plates from which a vehicle's permitted load can then be determined.
The measured weight and the load that the vehicle is allowed to carry will then be used by inspectors from the Norwegian Public Roads Administration (NPRA) to assess whether it should be stopped or not.
SINTEF was commissioned by the NPRA to develop the system. Other partners involved are the Norwegian Hauliers' Association and the Oslo firm Ciber.
What I particularly like about the Scandinavian idea is that it not only makes use of state of the art vision systems, but uses them in conjunction with a cable whose piezoelectric properties were discovered way back in 1880 by French physicists Jacques and Pierre Curie.
Indeed, considering how to couple older technologies with the new might also provide many developers of vision systems in other fields some ideas along similar lines.