engineering studentsFrom left Mike Muzyka, Jim Caylor, Matthew Clairmont and Patrick Pakula stand behind the emergency vehicle detection system they designed for their fourth-year capstone project.

Student-designed system would warn drivers about emergency vehicles

With the number of distractions motorists are dealing with any more it’s a wonder they even hear emergency vehicles when they’re nearing.

Now a group of fourth-year engineering students has developed a system that would make it virtually impossible for drivers not to notice when they’re in the vicinity of a fire truck, an ambulance or a police cruiser.

“It gives you a simple LED indication when one of them is approaching,” explained Patrick Pakula.

Along with electrical and computer engineering classmates Mike Muzyka, Jim Caylor and Matthew Clairmont, Pakula incorporated audio, visual and infrared technology into a system that draws on external data to alert the driver.

Microphones mounted into the mirrors on each door pick up the sound from approaching sirens and the system does a frequency analysis to identify the noise. A camera mounted in the rear of the vehicle would pick up flashing lights and detect if they contain blue and red pixels. And sensors in the car would detect the infrared signals emitted by fire trucks used to change traffic lights when they’re rushing to a scene.

All three of those systems work together, analyze the information and instantly send a signal to an LED light mounted on the bottom of the rear view mirror in the car’s windshield, which would flash to alert the driver.

While the system hasn’t actually been installed in a working vehicle yet, a proof of concept system has been tested out at local fire halls, at the police training centre and with a cruiser that was donated to the university by the Windsor Police Service several years ago for research purposes.

Muzyka said if used in a real car, the setup could be integrated into its entertainment system to lower the volume on the stereo, flash a warning on the navigation screen and even automatically guide the vehicle to the side of the road if an emergency vehicle is approaching.

“The potential for all that is there,” he said.

The system was just one of about a dozen fourth year capstone projects on display Friday at an open house in the Industrial Courtyard of the Ed Lumley Centre for Engineering Innovation. Capstone projects require students to draw on all of the knowledge they’ve gained in their four years in school and integrate them into a final assignment.