Francisco Duarte, a PhD Student in Transportation Systems of the MIT Portugal Program at University of Coimbra, was honored today with the first prize at the initiative promoted by Automóvel Clube Portugal in a partnership with BP Portugal, National Council of Rectors and National Innovation Agency. The 10 000€ will later be invested in the venture's prototype is currently under construction and it is expected that the laboratory tests will take place early next year and that the project pilot will be implemented in the second half of 2017. The project entitled VENEX presents a speed reduction system that induces the deceleration of vehicles without causing damage, noise or any discomfort to the passengers.
The VENEX - Vehicle Energy Efficient Extractor - equipment acts as in a similar fashion to a carpet that when placed on the floor actively reduces the speed of the vehicles by extracting kinetic energy, with a minimal impact on the automobile. Contrary to existing systems, this one absorbs the vehicles' energy and makes it slow down safely, without any action of the driver and even without being perceptible since it causes no discomfort. By acting directly on the vehicles, this solution can be effective in different places such as crossings, intersections, roundabouts, residential areas, schools and hospital areas, among others where it is crucial to control the speed limits. Drivers who move within the legal velocity limits will not be penalized, and the energy will just be withdrawn according to the necessity of each place.
Currently, road safety is an issue of global importance, especially due to the number of traffic-related victims, which increases annually and has high social and economic costs. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), 1.24 million people lose their lives annually in road accidents, and the number of seriously injured exceeds 7.8 million. In a study carried out in Portugal in 2012, the economic costs related to traffic accidents goes up to 2.5 million euros, which represents about 1.54% of the country's GDP. A large number of accidents occur in urban areas, involving especially pedestrians. WHO has pointed out several measures to promote the decrease of the number of accidents, and being speed reduction the first and most important. Several solutions have been developed but the one that has the best results to date are still road humps, managing to decrease the number of pedestrian accidents by more than 40%.