Auto manufacturers, civil engineers and public interest groups are always looking for ways to make the road a safer place to drive, and recently two independent companies have developed remarkably similar technologies to improve highway safety—rolling guard rails. One of these rolling guard rail designs was created by the Australia-based KSI Global, while the other was developed by ETI Ltd. in South Korea. The innovative guard rails consist of a series of rotating plastic barrels mounted on a metal frame.
Both guard rail designs operate on the same basic principle: absorbing impact energy by turning lateral force into rotational force. When cars strike conventional guard rails, all that energy is absorbed at a relatively narrow point of impact. This can make for jarring, intense collisions that cause serious injuries. When cars strike these rolling guard rails on the other hand, the impact is absorbed more gradually across a wider surface area. The vehicle is propelled forward down the shoulder of the road, rather than sideways into the guard rail. The rollers also generate friction to help safely slow the car to a stop.
These prototype rolling guard rails are not without their faults – a recent article in Road and Track points out that they can sometimes cause cars to ricochet back into traffic – but with further design improvements they could become far safer than conventional guard rails. The rolling guard rails can also be disassembled into their component pieces, making it relatively inexpensive for transportation departments to repair and maintain them.
To see the Australian version of the rolling guard rail in action, check out the video below!
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