Ottawa

Sensor-laden 'torch' wants to help road users stay safe

A Stittsville company has invented a small sensor about the size of a traffic cone that can detect pedestrians, cyclists, and autonomous vehicles and warn them of danger.

Stittsville company's device designed to warn people and computers of danger

One of Smart Cone Technologies' torches in Nepean. (Carmen Klassen/CBC)

It looks like a skinny fire hydrant that's bristling with cameras and sensors.

TheSmartCone can be mounted on a hydro pole or put inside a traffic cone to make roads and workplaces safer. 

It can detect pedestrians, cyclists, and motorists and warn each of the others' presence. It can also talk to the computers inside autonomous vehicles.

"You have vulnerable road users; people are on their phones [not paying attention] then you [might] have a very quiet electric shuttle that wasn't there yesterday," said Tenille Houston of the company behind it, Smart Cone Technologies, from the west Ottawa community of Stittsville.

Houston explained to CBC Radio's Ottawa Morning that the cone, or "torch" as she calls them, can be programmed to light up with flashing lights or send out a noise to warn the unwary about oncoming traffic.

It can be programmed to detect gunshots, which raised privacy concerns in cities such as Toronto, or the loud sound of a collision and contact 911 automatically.

The torches can also use motion detection and start recording video after a hit and run or even a near miss.

Some of TheSmartCone's features include a 360-degree camera, speakers and lights. (SmartCone Technologies)

One of them was piloted in Ottawa at the intersection of O'Connor and Waverley streets, along the segregated O'Connor bike lane.

The company is still sorting through the data it collected.

The company has also sold its technology overseas and to Enterprise Rent-A-Car in the United States.

New test tracks

That company is one of several using a new a pair of new autonomous vehicle test tracks in Ottawa called Canada L5.

One is a 16-kilometre private road network in the Greenbelt, the other nine kilometres of public roads in the Kanata North Tech Park, including parts of March and Herzberg roads and Terry Fox Drive.

The tracks were launched Thursday by Invest Ottawa to help local tech firms try out new autonomous technologies. 

"Autonomous vehicles come with a slew of sensors, but this is an extra layer of safety so we can back those up and keep everyone safer," Houson said at the private track.

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