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Remote sensing: towards a more accurate analysis of traffic emissions

04 October 2017

On Thursday 28th September, a conference on the remote sensing technology was held at the European Parliament. On the longer term, this promising technology for measuring vehicle's emissions should help cities implementing low-emission zones.

During the conference - which was hosted by four of the European political groups (Greens, S&D, ECR and EPP) - the research group of the European Commission's Joint Research Centre presented the results of its activities. After testing remote sensors - located either on the side of the road or above it - in several European cities, researchers were able to find a strong correlation between the results obtained thanks to the remote sensing technology and the PEMS technology, the most accurate technology used so far.

The main advantage of this technology lies in the fact that it can measure the emissions of vehicles in real conditions. Moreover it provides reliable real-time data for the whole local traffic, including all types of vehicles (categories, ages, maintenance level, etc). According to the research, in a first period, this technology would prove to be useful to monitor the state of the traffic's emissions and to get reliable data regarding the actual level of pollution in a city, for all types of vehicles. This statistical tool would then help cities build their policies on more accurate figures.

The researchers pointed out that it is nevertheless too early to use the remote sensors for the enforcement of air-quality measures in cities, in particular because some research works are still needed to better analyse the correlation between the results obtained with the new and the current technologies. In addition, the remote sensors measure the emissions of vehicles at a single point of the road and the results might not reflect the general emission level of a vehicle. That is why researchers advise to use the remote sensing technology in the future, as a complement to PEMS measurements for enforcing measures.