Oct. 20, 1999 Keeping mountain roads open in winter is a risky business. Snowplow and snowblower drivers frequently must work in conditions where they can't see what lies ahead or the edge of the road -- and that edge may be a cliff. Researchers at UC Davis' Advanced Highway Maintenance and Construction Technology Research Center are working on automated solutions.
One solution, the Advanced Snowplow, is equipped with a system of sensors that tell the driver where the lane is, when the plow has left the lane and when the plow is about to collide with an object ahead, such as a snow-covered car. The Advanced Snowplow was road-tested in California on Interstate 80 near Donner Summit, and near Flagstaff, Arizona last winter. This year, an improved plow will return to the roadways.
Now UC Davis engineers are beginning work on a new machine -- a snowblower called the Advanced Rotary Plow. The snowblower, which typically follows behind snowplows, will feature more automation, including automated steering, possibly an automated throttle and brakes, and a collision- warning system. All will be integrated into a Caltrans front-discharge blower that can throw 3,500 tons of snow per hour.
Development of the advanced snowplow and snowblower is largely supported by the California Department of Transportation. Other partners in the snow project include the University of California's Partners for Advanced Transit and Highways (PATH), the Western Transportation Institute of Montana State University and the Arizona Department of Transportation.
CalTrans recently renewed its support for the AHMCT Center with a $7.8 million, three year grant. The center is part of the UC Davis Department of Mechanical and Aeronautical Engineering.
Editors' note: A color photograph is available upon request, contact Sylvia Wright, email@example.com.
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