|Publication number||USRE40767 E1|
|Application number||US 09/708,713|
|Publication date||Jun 23, 2009|
|Filing date||Nov 9, 2000|
|Priority date||Oct 26, 1996|
|Also published as||US5726450, USRE44214|
|Publication number||09708713, 708713, US RE40767 E1, US RE40767E1, US-E1-RE40767, USRE40767 E1, USRE40767E1|
|Inventors||Jay Peterson, David R Nelson, Troy P. Bahan, George C. Polchin, Michael D. Jack|
|Original Assignee||Environmental Systems Products Holdings Inc.|
|Export Citation||BiBTeX, EndNote, RefMan|
|Patent Citations (58), Non-Patent Citations (65), Referenced by (9), Classifications (8), Legal Events (5)|
|External Links: USPTO, USPTO Assignment, Espacenet|
This application is related to application Ser. No. 08/318,566, entitled “Optical Sensing Apparatus for Remotely Measuring Exhaust Gas Composition of Moving Motor Vehicles” filed Oct. 5, 1994 and assigned to Santa Barbara Research Corporation, the assignee of the present invention.This application is a continuation of U.S. patent application Ser. No. 09/521,858, filed Mar. 9, 2000 (now abandoned), which is a Reissue of U.S. patent application Ser. No. 08/739,487, filed Oct. 26, 1996 (which issued as U.S. Pat. No. 5,726,450 on Mar. 10, 1998 ). Additionally, this application is related to U.S. patent application Ser. No. 08/318,566, filed Oct. 5, 1994, entitled “Optical Sensing Apparatus for Remotely Measuring Exhaust Gas Composition of Moving Motor Vehicles” (now U.S. Pat. No. 5,591,975, ussued Jan. 7, 1997 ).
1. Field of the Invention
This invention relates to the monitoring of environmental pollution, and more specifically to an unmanned integrated RES for remotely monitoring the exhaust gas composition of moving motor vehicles.
2. Description of the Related Art
Environmental pollution is a serious problem which is especially acute in urban areas. A major cause of this pollution is exhaust emissions from automotive vehicles. Official standards have been set for regulating the allowable amounts of pollutants species in automobile exhausts, and in some areas, periodic inspections or “smog checks” are required to ensure that vehicles meet these standards.
Anti-pollution devices which are required equipment on newer vehicles accomplish their intended purpose of reducing pollution in the vehicle exhaust to within prescribed levels. However, some older vehicles and special types of vehicles are exempt from inspections. Furthermore, some vehicle owners with mechanical expertise can perform whatever servicing is necessary to place their vehicles in condition to pass required inspections, and subsequently remove anti-pollution devices and/or return the vehicles with an attendant increase in pollutant emissions for normal use. The relatively small number of noncomplying vehicles generate a disproportionately large amount of pollution.
As a result, an anti-pollution program which depends entirely on mandatory periodic inspections performed at fixed facilities is inadequate. It is necessary to identify vehicles which are actually operating in violation of prescribed emission standards, and either require them to be placed in conformance with the standards or be removed from operation.
Manned RESs are now used to augment the periodic inspection program to identify vehicles that are in violation of the emission standards. In general, RES are a nonobtrusive and cost-effective means for identifying the high pollution emitting vehicles and notifying the owner to take corrective action in a timely manner. The Smog Dog™ RES produced by Santa Barbara Research Center, the assignee of the present invention, includes a source and a receiver that are mounted on respective tripods and positioned on opposite sides of a road, a video camera and speed sensor that are mounted on a tripod that is positioned about 50 feet up the road in the direction of oncoming traffic, a van that contains a computer, data storage, power sources, calibration gas, and a video monitor, and a technician.
The source projects an IR beam across the road to the receiver which continuously senses pollutant levels such as carbon monoxide (CO), carbon dioxide (CO2), hydrocarbons (HC), water (H2O), nitric oxide (NOx) in the received IR beam. When a vehicle passes through the IR beam, a sensor triggers the receiver to write the pollutant levels for the vehicle's exhaust plume to a data file in the data storage. The beam is set at a height to detect either low profile vehicles (cars) or high profile vehicles (trucks), but not both. The video camera takes a picture of the passing vehicle and the computer executes a character recognition program to identify the plate, which is then appended to the data file. If the speed sensor determines that the vehicle's acceleration and/or speed exceed certain levels, indicating that the vehicle's emissions control equipment are disabled, the recorded data is invalidated.
One drawback of the SMOG Dog™ and the other known RES systems is that the components, i.e. the sensor, receiver, video camera/speed sensor, and the van, are discrete parts that are positioned over a relatively large area. The source and receiver are positioned on opposite sides of the road. For safety purposes, they must be set back from the edges of the road. The video camera/speed sensor are positioned up the road such that their detection angles with respect to the passing vehicles is sufficiently shallow, approximately 3 degrees, to provide an accurate acceleration estimate and a high confidence of plate recognition. This can cause mismatch errors between the emissions readings and the plate recognition. Also, there must be enough room to park the van. These spatial requirements limit the applicability of the known RES systems. Furthermore, the discrete components are expensive because they require their own tripod, power supply, and alignment mechanisms.
Another drawback is that the known RES must be continuously manned by a technician, which is very expensive. After initial set up and alignment, the technician monitors the equipment to protect it from vandalism, performs required maintenance, and puts the system away at the end of the day. For example, the components may fall out of alignment due to the vibrations caused by passing vehicles, the various lenses may become occluded or the calibration gas may run out. Furthermore, the technician controls the data gathering process. The technician periodically places the RES in calibration mode, puffs a calibration gas into the IR beam to calibrate the system and evaluates the results displayed on the video monitor to accept or reject the calibration. Thereafter, the technician places the RES in data gathering mode, puffs the calibration gas, and compares the computed pollutant levels to the known levels of the calibration gas to accept or reject the verification of the calibration. During data gathering, the technician monitors both the signal levels of the exhaust plumes and the ambient air to determine whether the system has gone out of calibration or has a mechanical error. The technician also verifies the results of the plate recognition system.
U.S. Pat. No. 5,418,366 “IR-Based Nitric Oxide Sensor Having Water Vapor Compensation” issued May 23, 1995 discloses a specific receiver configuration having three channels for measuring a NO transmission, a water transmission, and a reference transmission, respectively, that are combined to give the effective NO transmission value. U.S. Pat. No. 5,210,702, “Apparatus for Remote Analysis of Vehicle Emissions” issued May 11, 1993 discloses a specific receiver configuration in which the ultraviolet beam is separated from the IR beam to sense the NO levels, and the IR beam is split into a plurality of components to measure CO, CO2, HC and H2O. Both systems use discrete source and receiver components placed on opposite sides of a road, a camera mounted on a tripod up the road, and a van for housing the control electronics, and require a technician to set the system up, calibrate the system, control the data gathering process, and pack it up at the end of the day.
In 1992 Remote Sensing Technologies (RST) experimented with a double-pass RES system called the RSD1000 in which a van housing both the source and the receiver and the video camera was suspended from a 20 foot boom. The IR beam was reflected off a mirror on the opposite side of the road back to the receiver. RST's system did not include the plate recognition or speed sensing capabilities, and never worked well enough for commercial exploitation. As a result, RST developed a one-pass system with the source and receiver on opposite sides of the road.
In view of the above problems, the present invention provides an unmanned integrated RES that reduces cost and simplifies operation.
This is accomplished by integrating each of the RES's components except the reflector into a single console that is positioned at the side of a road and providing a CPU that controls calibration, verification and data gathering. The source and receiver are preferably stacked one on top of the other such that the IR beam traverses a low and high path as it crosses the road. This allows the RES to detect both low and high ground clearance vehicles. To maintain the vehicle processing and identification throughput, the speed sensor and ALPR detect the passing vehicles at steep angles, approximately 20 to 35 degrees. In a preferred system, a manned control center communicates with a large number of the unmanned integrated RES to download emissions data, perform remote diagnostics, and, if necessary, dispatch a technician to perform maintenance on a particular RES.
These and other features and advantages of the invention will be apparent to those skilled in the art from the following detailed description of preferred embodiments, taken together with the accompanying drawings, in which:
The present invention provides an emissions sensing system that includes a plurality of unmanned integrated RES. A manned control center communicates with a large number of the RESs to download emissions data, perform remote diagnostics, and, if necessary, dispatch a technician to perform maintenance on a particular RES. The source, receiver, speed sensor, automated license plate reader (ALPR), gas canister, power supplies, and computer are integrated into a console that can be positioned at the side of a road either permanently or for an extended period of time. A reflector is positioned on the other side of the road to reflect the IR beam back to the receiver. The source and receiver are preferably stacked one on top of the other such that the IR beam traverses a low and high path as it crosses the road. This allows the RES to detect both low and high ground clearance vehicles. To maintain the vehicle processing and identification throughput of the known systems, the speed sensor and ALPR detect the passing vehicles at steep angles, approximately 20 to 35 degrees. This has the beneficial effect of reducing the number of mismatches between pollutant readings and vehicle identification. Furthermore, data gathering control including calibration, verification, and data gathering are automated. This eliminates the need for an on site technician, which further reduces cost.
As shown in
The RES 12 and a reflector 22 are placed on opposite sides of the road 14 and aligned such that the RES's IR beam 24 is reflected back to the RES 12. When a vehicle 26 passes through the IR beam 24, the RES 12 writes the pollutant levels from the vehicle's exhaust plume 28 to a data file and appends the vehicle's license plate number. If the vehicle's speed or acceleration are too high, indicating that the vehicle's emissions control have been disabled, the data is invalidated.
The RESs 12 are automated to maintain calibration and, if repeated recalibration fails, to notify the control center 16. The control center performs remote diagnostics to identify the cause of the calibration failure and, if possible, to correct the problem. Otherwise a technician is dispatched to the RES 12. The RESs 12 periodically download the gathered emissions data to the control center 16.
As shown in
A trigger circuit 40 in the receiver 34 provides a trigger signal when a vehicle passes through the beam 24. The circuit responds to the sequential condition of the received signal going to zero, “beam block” followed by the received signal returning to a valid emissions level, “beam unblock.” Placing the source 32 on top of the receiver 34 causes the IR beam 24 to traverse an upper path 42 across the road and to return along a lower path 44 to the receiver. As a result, the circuit will trigger on either low or high ground clearance vehicles. The trigger signal is fed to the data processing CPU 38 causing it to write the composition of the plume to a data file on a hard disk 46.
A vehicle identification system identifies the passing vehicle and appends the identification to the data file. The currently preferred approach is an automated license plate reader (ALPR) system that includes a video camera 48 that takes a picture of the vehicle's license plate 50 in response to the trigger signal and a identification CPU 52 that executes a character recognition algorithm to extract the plate number. Alternately, the vehicles could transmit identification codes that would be detected as the vehicles pass by the RES.
The video camera takes the picture at an angle ρ with respect to the road. The shallower the angle, the easier it is for the character recognition algorithm to extract the plate number. However, the shallower the angle, the farther the vehicle is past the RES when its plate is read. This increases the chance of mismatching the vehicle identification to the wrong data file. Furthermore, this reduces the number of vehicles that can be tested in a given time, i.e. the vehicle throughput.
An optional speed sensor system determines the acceleration of an oncoming vehicle and invalidates the subsequently measured data if the acceleration is too high. The speed sensor system preferably includes an oblique angle radar 54 that detects oncoming vehicles and a CPU 56 that computes the vehicle's acceleration. Alternately, a LIDAR system, piezeo or pneumatic cables, or an optical sensor could be used to measure the vehicle's acceleration. Similar to the video camera, the slant radar detects the oncoming vehicle at an angle with respect to the road. The shallower the angle, the more accurate the estimate of the acceleration using known techniques but the lower the vehicle throughput. As a result, the known ALPR and speed/acceleration algorithms are modified as shown in
The RES 12 includes a number of secondary components that are required to support the data gathering process. A power supply 58 supplies power to the source 32, receiver 34, video camera 48, radar 54, and the CPUs. A pair of fans 60 cool the electrical systems in the RES 12. A pair of vents 62 vent the source and calibration gas to the atmosphere. An external computer port 64 allows a service technician to connect a laptop computer to the RES 12 to access the CPUs and perform diagnostics.
An automated control system controls the data gathering process for the RES 12. The primary function of the control system is to maintain calibration so that the recorded data is reliable. A gas canister 66 contains calibration gas that has a known composition of pollutants. When actuated, the gas canister 66 emits a puff of calibration gas in front of the source. This is used to both recompute the calibration curves and to verify the calibration.
The RES 12 can lose calibration for a number of reasons. First, the ambient conditions can change. For example, the CO2 levels typically rise during the day, the HC levels near industrial plants will also rise during the day, heavy traffic will increase the background pollutant levels, and rain will destroy the IR signature. Second, mechanical problems such as the gas bottle being empty, the source being worn out, or a stolen reflector will result in a loss of calibration. Another common source of signal degradation is a dirty receiver lens. In known systems, when the technician notices signal degradation he manually cleans the lens on the receiver. In the automated RES, a multi-position lens cover 68 is placed in front of the receiver lens, and indexed when the signal levels degrade.
A control CPU 70, as detailed in
As shown in
In the preferred embodiment, the chopper 76 is positioned at the IR source, which enables the system to distinguish infrared radiation emitted by the source from that emitted by the vehicle exhaust. When the chopper blocks the beam, the receiver measures the infrared radiation emitted from the plume. The data processing CPU calculates the peak-to-peak signal which removes the quiescent levels of the receiver as well as the interference from the vehicle exhaust. Thus, the measurements of the transmission levels are more accurate. Alternately, the chopper 76 can be positioned at the receiver. However, in this configuration the constituent measurements can be distorted by irradiance from the plume itself.
As shown in
Each detector 82 outputs an electrical signal corresponding to the radiation level at its wavelength to an amplifier 84. An n channel analog to digital (A/D) converter 86 digitizes the amplified signals and outputs them to the data processing CPU 38 shown in
A beam integrator lens 90 is preferably placed between the lens cover 68 and the filters 80 to homogenize the beam 24 after propagation through the plume to remove the spatial and temporal variations of the constituent concentrations so that the detected signals are synchronized. The optical intensity or energy that is incident on the photodetectors 82 is substantially uniform throughout the cross-section of the homogenized beam 24. This ensures that the same homogenized or averaged scene is sensed by the photodetectors 82, and substantially increases the accuracy of the measurement by reducing the spatial and temporal variance of the constituent concentrations by over an order of a magnitude. The beam integrator lens enables synchronous operation of the photodetectors.
In a presently preferred embodiment of this invention there are six spectral measurements channels. These are an NO spectral channel (having a filter 80 with a passband centered on 5.26 μm), an H2O spectral channel (having a filter 80 with a passband centered on 5.02 μm), a first reference, or CO2 spectral channel (having a filter 80 with a passband centered on 4.2 μm), a CO spectral channel (having a filter 80 with a passband centered on 4.6 μm), a HC spectral channel (having a filter 80 with a passband centered on 3.3 μm) and a second reference (REF) spectral channel (having a filter 80 with a passband centered on 3.8 μm). Additional channels to measure other pollutants can also be added if desired.
In general, the NO spectral channel is located near resonant absorption peaks in the vicinity of 5.2 μm; the water vapor spectral channel is in a region of strong water absorption where fundamental lines do not saturate; the first reference spectral channel is employed for normalizing the pollutants to the normal combustion products, i.e., CO2; and the second reference (REF) spectral channel is provided at a region in which no atmospheric or automotive emissions gases absorb.
The REF spectral channel compensates the other five spectral channels for variations caused by: (a) fluctuations in the output of the IR source 74 shown in
Once in measurement mode, the CPU 70 again determines whether a vehicle is approaching (step 102), waits until no vehicle is in range (step 104), and performs a puff-in-vehicle (PIV) test (step 106) to verify the calibration. The CPU 70 directs the gas canister to emit another puff of calibration gas so that the data processing CPU uses the calibration curves to compute a composition for the calibration gas (step 108). If the composition deviates from a known reference composition of the calibration gas then the calibration is rejected. If calibration has failed repeatedly (step 110), for example 10 times in a row, the CPU 70 directs the RES to notify the control center (step 112). Otherwise the CPU 70 repeats steps 92 through 108 to recalibrate the system and verify the calibration. When the composition calculated in step 108 is close enough to the reference composition, the calibration is accepted and data collection initiated (step 114). The data processing CPU will generate an error code 9999 when the data, i.e. the sensed radiation levels, is no good. Random and infrequent bad data is expected as part of the sensing process. However, a high percentage of bad data is indicative of a either a system problem such as an occluded lens, beam misalignment or mechanical problems in the source or the system being out of calibration. The CPU 70 monitors the data (step 116), and if the frequency of error codes exceeds a threshold, initiates recalibration by returning control to step 104. Otherwise, the data processing CPU continues gathering data (step 118).
Because the ambient conditions can change over time, the CPU 70 periodically verifies the last calibration (step 120) by returning control to step 102. The system continues gathering data (step 122) in the measurement mode while the CPU 70 monitors the data processing CPU to make sure that it is sampling the radiation levels and computing compositions (step 124). If not, the CPU 70 assumes that the system software has failed, power cycles the system (step 126) to reboot the software, performs a calibration (step 128), and determines whether the calibration was effective (step 130). If power cycling has restored the system, control returns to step 102 to verify the calibration. Otherwise, the CPU 70 causes the RES to notify the control center (step 112).
If the data processing CPU is receiving and processing the data in step 124, the CPU 70 monitors the ambient signal levels (radiation levels or compositions) (step 132). If the ambient signal levels are close enough to a set of reference values (step 134), for example, the values measured at the last calibration, then data gathering continues at step 114. If the signal levels have deviated, the CPU 70 indexes the lens cover 68 shown in
When the RES notifies the control center (step 112), a technician at the control center executes remote diagnostics over the communications channel to identify the problem (step 144). If the system can be fixed remotely (step 146), control is returned to CPU 70 to gather data. Otherwise, a service technician is dispatched to the RES (step 148).
In order to maintain the same vehicle throughput as the known RES systems, the integrated RES radar 54 and video camera 48 shown in
As shown in
The CPU then executes a correlation algorithm on the first character in the normalized image to generate a correlation value for each character in an alpha-numeric set and selects the character with the highest correlation value (step 160). Thereafter, the correlation value of the selected character is compared to a recognition threshold, e.g. 90% (step 162). If the correlation value is less than the threshold, recognition is rejected (step 164). If the correlation value exceeds the threshold, the character is written into the ALPR file which is appended to the recorded emissions data file (step 166). The correlation algorithm is repeated for each character in the license plate until all the characters have been recognized or rejected (step 168). If only one or two of the characters in the license plate are rejected, the plate may still be uniquely identifiable. If so, the partial plate can be appended to the emissions data and recorded. However, if too many characters in the entire license plate are rejected, then the entire plate recognition is rejected and the recorded emissions data is not reported (step 170).
A common problem is known RES systems is a mismatch between the recorded emissions data and the license plate, i.e. the wrong car is matched to the offending emissions. The steep angles used by the radar and video camera reduce the frequency of mismatches to some extent by confining the area in which they look for a passing vehicle. As illustrated in
While several illustrative embodiments of the invention have been shown and described, numerous variations and alternate embodiments will occur to those skilled in the art. Such variations and alternate embodiments are contemplated, and can be made without departing from the spirit and scope of the invention as defined in the appended claims.
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|U.S. Classification||250/338.5, 356/436, 250/252.1, 250/339.13|
|International Classification||G01N21/00, G01N21/35|
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