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Marking the way to driverless cars? Ontario’s 407 ETR, 3M team up to test novel road tape


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September 28, 2019 by On-Site Staff

The trial area where 3M is testing new pavement marking tapes. PHOTO: 407 ETR Concession Company Ltd.

TORONTO—Though still very much at the test stage, driverless cars are slowly making their way onto Canadian streets.

Earlier this summer, 3M Canada and 407 ETR Concession Company Ltd. — the private group that operates Ontario’s Hwy. 407 — announced a new project aimed at easing the transition from human drivers to autonomous ones.

Unlike much of the work on autonomous vehicles, which revolves around sensors, software and other on-vehicle technology, the 3M and 407 ETR effort focuses on improving the roads these vehicles are sensing. Specifically, 3M is putting new pavement marking tapes to the test in real-world conditions.

The retro-reflective tapes, which are optimized for Advanced Driver Assistance Systems (ADAS), such as lane departure or collision avoidance warnings, were installed earlier this year on about 2.5 kilometres of Hwy. 407 in Vaughan, Ont. The new lane markings performed well through the winter and spring, the companies said.

“Validating our products in our unique Canadian climate helps us bring new technology to road-users and keep our roadways safe for all drivers” Jonathan Cliffen, Connected Roads Lead at 3M Canada, said in a release this July.

A close-up of the tape on the concrete road surface. PHOTO: 407 ETR Concession Company Ltd.

Designed to take advantage of how autonomous vehicle sensors read the roadway, the high contrast tape has black markings at the edges of the predominantly white strip. This is particularly useful on concrete roads where white markings often don’t stand out as much as they do on asphalt.

“With success and support using 3M products in the past, the pilot project using 3M Connected Roads Contrast Tape made sense.,”said Craig White, vice-president of Highway and Tolling Operations for 407 ETR, in a release. “It’s important we remain ahead of the game when it comes to autonomous vehicles for the safety of drivers and passengers alike.”

The test area with novel though familiar road markings lets researchers advance autonomous vehicle sensing technology while ensuring the today’s human drivers aren’t pushed out of their element.


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