Holland family’s invention aims to stop crashes

Ottawa County

PARK TOWNSHIP, Mich. (WOOD) — We’ve all seen crosses at intersections, markers of where someone died in a crash.

Fatal crashes happen all the time. On Wednesday, a man was killed when a driver failed to stop at a red light in Grandville.

Scott Vanden Berg and his family lived through one of these tragedies 17 years ago.

“We actually had a cousin that was killed in a traffic accident,” the Holland-area man told 24 Hour News 8 Thursday. “The driver missed a stop sign and he was tragically killed.”

So he, his brother Doug and their dad Tom put their grief into action by creating Safer Technology Solutions and developing a system that warns drivers of an approaching stop sign, stop light or any number of potential traffic hazards.

The invention uses radio frequency ID (RFID) chips embedded in or taped to the pavement.

“That communicates with the vehicle and can alert the vehicle of different signals, such as a stop sign,” Scott Vanden Berg explained.

An antenna on the vehicle picks up signal from the RFID chip.

“We’re going to approach the stop sign at about 45 miles an hour,” Doug Vanden Berg showed 24 Hour News 8 as he steered a test car down 168th Avenue in Park Township.

The signal picked up by the antenna is sent to a device inside the vehicle that then tells existing safety features found in most smart cars what to do. “Stop ahead” comes over the vehicle’s audio system, followed by an alarm.  

“If we ignore the alert and we continue on to the stop sign without applying the brakes, the brakes will be applied for us,” causing the vehicle to slow, Doug Vanden Berg explained.

Challenges remain. Local road commissions will need to buy in to the idea by installing the sensors on roadways.

“The cost per intersection is not that great in comparison to outfit an intersection with traffic signals in general,” Doug Vanden Berg said.

While the technology exists, it needs to be mass-produced to make it affordable. The Vanden Bergs are looking for a partner.

“It has to be at a national scale for this to really start saving lives,” Scott Vanden Berg said. “Everybody’s going to benefit because we’re going to be preventing accidents and fatalities.”

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