Road safety

Colas rolled out its dynamic road marking system Flowell at Mandelieu-La Napoule, on the French Riviera, in 2019. Trials of this innovation are underway in other places too, and the first results are now in.

By Céline de Buttet in 2021

what is flowell?

Flowell is a luminous road marking solu-tion that lights up when triggered by sensors, thus increasing visibility for users and improving  the  sharing  of  public  spaces.  Activated only  when  users  are  present, it smooths traffic flows even at busy intersections while encouraging compliance with traffic regulation. “The  idea  is  to deliver  the  right  mes-sage,  at  the  right  time,  to  the  right  person.  That  way, motorists are not stressed by  unnecessary  information,”  explains  Emmanuel  Orlianges, assistant  director,  Business Development Flowell, at Colas.

Still in the test phase, Flowell is not yet an officially recognized road system and is not being marketed for now. “Road safety is one of  the  most  highly  regulated  areas  in  the  world,”  notes  Orlianges.  “So  far,  we  have  obtained authorization from the French ministry to conduct tests.”

how it works?

The Flowell system consists of panels in which LEDs are encapsulated in a mul-tilayer substratum and connected to the electrical network. The panels, which are only 7 mm thick, are connected to control terminals that regulate the intensity of the light. They can be glued on or embed in the pavement and they offer the same roughness as a conventional surface course.

The idea is to deliver the right mes-sage, at the right time, to the right per-son. That way, motorists are not stressed by unnecessary information,

Emmanuel Orlianges

assistant director, Business Development Flowell, at Colas

Mandelieu-la Napoule, the first pilot site

At  the  request  of  the  town’s  mayor,  Mandelieu-La-Napoule  became the first Flowell test site. Colas installed the system in February 2019 at a location in the city center where ensuring safety is particularly difficult: an interchange  on  the  A8  motorway.  There  are  four pedestrian crosswalks in a row here. Three of them are equipped with ordinary traffic light, while at the fourth, at the exit from the motorway, there is a sensor at the crosswalk that detects the presence of  pedestrians.  Because  the  Flowell  system  is  new,  pedestrians  did  not  behave  totally normally at the beginning of the trial  period,  which  may  have  distorted  the early results. The impact of the luminous markings is thus assessed both with behavioral studies using cameras and with interviews. “Even if it’s not magic, pedestrians  do  pay  more  attention,  and  there’s  a  sharp  improvement  in  their  behavior,” says  Étienne  Gaudin,  operations  director  in the Infrastructure and Sustainable and Intelligent Mobilities department at Colas. Thanks to Flowell, motorists and pedestrians alike say they are less stressed when they arrive at this dangerous intersection.

One third of drivers declare they are more attentive  to  pedestrians,  half  of  vehicles  stop less suddenly when approaching the crosswalk, and nearly half of pedestrians cross on a path that more closely complies with safety rules. “While awaiting the next phase of studies, which will start soon, we are already making improvements to the system,”  adds  Gaudin.  For  example,  we  are  working  on  heightening  the  contrast  in the lighting between the day and night. We also want to offer a more economical solution by reducing the cost of the control systems and improving the lighting efficiency of the panels.”

While awaiting the next phase of studies, which will start soon, we are already making improvements to the system. For example, we are working on heightening the contrast in the lighting between the day and night. We also want to offer a more economical solution by reducing the cost of the con-trol systems and improving improving the lighting efficiency of the panels.

Etienne Gaudin

operations director in the Infrastructure and Sustainable and intelligent mobilities department at colas

the other pilot sites

After Mandelieu-La Napoule, Flowell was installed  at  a  hazardous  intersection  in  Nantes.  To  coordinate  the  operation  of  several transport modes more efficiently, bus  lanes  are  indicated  with  a  V-shaped  pattern that lights up before the bus arrives and is synchronized with the traffic light. Since then, the list of pilot sites has grown, with large cities (Paris), medium-size ones (Nevers, in central France), and rural communities  (Boussens,  in  the  southwest), offering opportunities to test a variety of uses.  Last  but  not  least,  Flowell  has  traveled abroad, with a trial now taking place at  a  private  site  in  the  port  of  Brooklyn, New-York.

Instructions have already been given to include Flowell in our future developments as soon as the prototype goes into full-scale production.

mayor of Mandelieu-La Napoule

Sébastien leroy

and tomorrow?

Flowell also has a promising future when it  comes  to  modulating  spaces.  Dynamic  marking  makes  it  possible  to  change  the  number  of  lanes  allocated  to  different  means of transport (walking, bicycles, pub-lic transport, automobiles, etc.) depending on traffic conditions and parking demand. Moreover, when space is better adapted to needs, compliance with road safety regulations improves. And Flowell’s applications are not limited to roads. Colas’ innovative solution is versatile and can be modified for use in rail and airport infrastructures too, particularly for guiding vehicles. The possibilities are indeed immense.