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Hali emergency system
© DLR (CC BY-NC-ND 3.0)

Every second counts for the fire brigade and police in an emergency. But there is usually an unpredictable obstacle standing between the emergency services and their destination: red lights at junctions. Despite their blue lights and sirens, the emergency services have to slow their vehicles down so that they do not risk a collision with other road users. But if the traffic lights were to switch to green just before the emergency services reached them, they could go through the junction safely and quickly. Special signals from the European satellite navigation system Galileo offer the solution for speedy travel to emergencies without any accidents along the way. HALI-Berlin is the first and so far only project in the world to use satellite signals and operational Galileo PRS receivers in real situations. (“HALI” comes from the Finnish “HälytysAjoneuvojen LIikennevaloetuudet”, which means “traffic signal control for emergency vehicles”.)

It has recently passed its practical test with the Berlin fire service and police and grants free passage to emergency vehicles with a wave of green lights using Galileo satellite signals. The unique system consisting of Galileo Public Regulated Service (PRS) receivers in emergency vehicles plus communication and traffic technology in traffic lights is therefore an ideal way to ensure that emergency services can move quickly and safely through the heavy city traffic. “Space flight is thus playing its part in making transport on earth safer,” says René Kleeßen, Director of Organisations and Infrastructure in the German Space Agency at the German Aerospace Center (DLR). Unlike in the original system idea from Finland, HALI-Berlin uses highly accurate position tracking that is also protected against interference and manipulation. Powerful encryption efficiently prevents the time signal and position from being deliberately falsified through what is known as spoofing. PRS also makes it more difficult to jam signals with targeted interruption and overlaying of signals with a source of interference.

In the HALI-Berlin project, the German Space Agency at the German Aerospace Center (DLR) is funding the development and testing of new Galileo PRS receivers with funds from the German Federal Ministry of Transport and Digital Infrastructure (BMVI) via the DLR Institute of Transportation Systems and the Fraunhofer Institute for Integrated Circuits IIS.

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