Easy rain and the aquaplaning issue, how to solve it
Listed among RedBull.com’s New Heroes, Easy Rain’s goal is to improve the overall performance of vehicles on wet roads thanks to two high-pressure nozzles capable of removing the water in excess reducing loss of adherence due to aquaplaning
Gianluca Dotti giornalista scientifico • Wired
Removing excess water using a high pressure jet: this is the idea behind a device created by Easy Rain, a Friuli based startup, which has, as its obvious mission, the reduction of road accidents caused by aquaplaning. This startup was selected by RedBull.com as part of the New Heroes project, curated by Oscar di Montigny, and created to tell the stories of modern industrial heroes. Besides the technological innovation in itself, Easy Rain looks at addressing an issue of great social impact - road accidents - which in various forms and due to many different causes still take more than 3 thousand lives in over 170 thousand accidents every year, about a fifth of which take place in bad weather conditions.
In theory it all looks very simple. A specially designed algorithm will detect the quantity of water on the road ahead, and which side of the vehicle will more likely lose adherence.
Once established which of the wheels will be most likely affected by aquaplaning, whether the left or right wheels, front or rear, two high-pressure nozzles, placed under the headlamps, immediately go into action. The system draws water from the windshield washer tank and sprays it violently on the road, removing the excess rainwater and allowing the tires to regain grip.
The man behind the invention is Giovanni Blandina who, after toying with the idea for a while, decided to patent it and use it as a spring board in creating a startup, Easy Rain, four years ago and most likely the only one working on a device specifically designed to deal with the dangerous phenomenon of aquaplaning.
The startup is currently located in the Technology Hub of Pordenone as well as in what is considered the best university business incubator, the Polytechnic of Turin. “Things are looking up at the moment," Giovanni Blandina told Wired, "as we are losing the status of risky startup in favour of a more stable development path. There is a 5 million euro capital increase in the pipeline, which is particularly significant if we think that startups in the automotive sector are very few, and even fewer are those that deal with safety devices".
The more natural application of the system is safety in wet conditions, which makes the Easy Rain system potentially suitable for all cars and able to find fertile ground especially among racing cars and autonomously driven vehicles, not to mention future interactions with other safety features such as ABS and ESP systems. Furthermore, Easy Rain is designed to be integrated with the next generation of smart tire sensors, still under development. Two additional characteristics will prove equally essential: as far as the size of the device, the system is compatible with every vehicle on the market, and very little maintenance is needed.
"This device was created as safety equipment for standard vehicles", explains Blandina, "but during the research and development phase what emerged was that the benefits relate not only to safety but also to improved performance on wet roads, which makes it particularly suitable for racing cars, making them more responsive in poor weather conditions".
The final price, once industrialized and marketed, should be around 500 euro, while production costs should settle around one hundred euro. And the benefits? According to Blandina, improvements on wet roads are in the range of 30% through corners and 40% on a straight road.
In addition to having won several prizes, including the Corporate Venture Forum Award, Car Innovation 2016 and a special recognition as at the Automechanika fair in Frankfurt, at the beginning of 2018 Easy Rain participated in the Consumer Electronic Show (Ces) in Las Vegas.
"The next two years will be crucial in making and distributing the final product. At the moment we have a research prototype, but we are planning to have the first system installed and working by 2021 or 2022 ", continues Blandina. "The device for standard cars will only work in case of need, just like any Abs or Esp system, while for racing cars we have developed a system that collects and reuses the water that is dispersed by the tires, hence no additional tanks are needed even in case of prolonged use".