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Dunedin City Council asked Fulton Hogan for ideas to help warn motorists of ice on Three Mill Hill Road, so we turned to solar lighting company Solar Bright, a Christchurch company we had worked with previously. The result of the collaboration was the Pateye. Invented by Pat Martin, the Pateye (protection against temperature) had been patented and, in addition to the road trials, it was also undergoing verification testing in Fulton Hogan’s laboratory in Dunedin. A need to find a solution to reduce the high number of winter crashes on Three Mill Hill Road, led to the development of new technology, believed to be a world first.
The Pateye raised pavement markers are fitted with blue lights which flash when the road is icy. The markers incorporate a sensor which tracks the ground temperature. When it drops to a certain level, the blue LED lights start flashing. The lights switch off when the temperature rises.
Solar Bright spokeswoman Nicola Martin said it was a simple, yet effective solution, that could have a huge effect on road safety. It was hoped information gleaned from the Dunedin trials would show people slowed when they saw the blue flashing lights, she said.
If successful, the technology would be marketed to other countries with similar road conditions.
Mr Martin said it is a real-time warning alerting people to black ice and could potentially save somebody’s life.
About 20 of the solar-powered markers are now being trialled in Dunedin, on North Road, Northeast Valley, and Main South Road at Sunnyvale. City Council senior contract supervisor Bruce Wood said the Council had chosen the North Road site as there was a temperature gauge in a nearby pump station, so the effectiveness of the markers could be measured, and as the Sunnyvale site was near Fulton Hogan’s yard, the markers’ sturdiness could also be tested. A counter was in place to record vehicle numbers and speeds, and the information, along with crash statistics, will be analysed at the end of winter 2012. If it proved effective, the City Council might look at installing the Pateyes on high-volume, high-crash-rate roads