Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

New technology targets slick winter highways

Date:
December 17, 2013
Source:
National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR)
Summary:
Snowplows are getting more intelligent this winter, thanks to a new digital intelligence system that equips them with custom sensors to measure road and weather conditions. The system is intended to reduce accidents and save states millions in winter maintenance costs.

Cars and trucks facing heavy snow on Interstate 84 in Oregon. A new digital intelligence system that equips snowplows with custom-designed sensors is helping transportation officials clear winter roads more quickly and effectively.
Credit: Image courtesy Oregon Department of Transportation

In the annual battle to keep roads clear of snow and ice, snowplows are about to get much more intelligent.

Related Articles


Officials in four states this winter are deploying hundreds of plows with custom-designed sensors that continually measure road and weather conditions. The new digital intelligence system, funded by the U.S. Department of Transportation and built by the National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR), is designed to reduce accidents and save states millions of dollars in winter maintenance costs.

The system, known as the Pikalert(TM) Enhanced Maintenance Decision Support System (EMDSS), is being activated on major highways across Michigan, Minnesota, and Nevada, as well as on Long Island, New York. If it passes key tests, it will be transferred to private vendors and become available to additional states in time for next winter.

"This offers the potential to transform winter driving safety," said NCAR scientist Sheldon Drobot, who oversees the design of the system. "It gives road crews an incredibly detailed, mile-by-mile view of road conditions. They can quickly identify the stretches where dangerous ice and snow are building up."

The new system combines the sensor measurements with satellite and radar observations and computer weather models, giving officials an unprecedented near-real time picture of road conditions. With updates every five to fifteen minutes, EMDSS will enable transportation officials to swiftly home in on dangerous stretches even before deteriorating conditions cause accidents.

"The U.S. Department of Transportation is committed to addressing the safety and mobility problems associated with adverse weather, especially through the use of intelligent transportation systems," said Kenneth Leonard, director of the Department of Transportation's Intelligent Transportation Systems Joint Program Office. "This effort demonstrates the value of connected vehicle technologies, advanced weather prediction, and targeted decision support to enable state departments of transportation to more effectively maintain a high level of service on their roads."

Motor vehicle accidents involving wintry conditions and other hazardous weather claim the lives of more than 4,000 people in the United States and injure several hundred thousand each year. To keep roads clear, a single state can spend tens of millions of dollars on maintenance operations over the course of one winter.

But transportation officials often lack critical information about road conditions in their own states. They rely on ground-based observing stations that can be spaced more than 60 miles apart. As a result, they have to estimate conditions between weather stations. Snow and ice may build up more quickly along particular stretches of road because of shading, north-facing curves, higher elevation, or small-scale differences in weather conditions.

If officials dispatch snowplows unnecessarily, or treat roads with sand, salt, or chemicals when not needed, they risk wasting money and harming the environment. If they do not treat the roads, however, drivers may face treacherous conditions.

By equipping hundreds of snowplows and transportation supervisor trucks with sensors, officials can now get information along every mile of the roads traveled by the vehicles. The sensors collect weather data, such as temperature and humidity, as well as indirect indications of road conditions, such as the activation of antilock brakes or windshield wipers.

Using GPS technology, the measurements are coded with location and time. They are transmitted via the Internet or dedicated radio frequencies or cellular networks to an NCAR database, where they are integrated with other local weather data, traffic observations, and details about the road's surface material. The resulting data are subjected to quality control measures to weed out false positives (such as a vehicle slowing down because of construction rather than slippery conditions).

The resulting detail about atmospheric and road conditions is relayed to state transportation officials to give them a near-real time view of ice and snow buildup, as well as what to expect in the next few hours from incoming weather systems.

State transportation officials said the system will contribute significantly to safer roads.

"Collecting atmosphere and road surface condition data from vehicles in near-real time provides another important layer of information never before available," said Steven Cook, operations/maintenance field services engineer of the Michigan Department of Transportation. "With information like this, we can more accurately pinpoint changing road conditions in the winter that need treatment and alert drivers of potential hazardous conditions before they encounter them."

"This additional location-specific information can help our maintenance crews provide a more effective and efficient response to weather events, resulting in improved road conditions and increased safety for all drivers," added Denise Inda, the chief traffic operations engineer of the Nevada Department of Transportation.

Drobot said he is looking forward to evaluating EMDSS. "We want to reduce that white-knuckle experience of suddenly skidding on ice," Drobot said.

EMDSS is the leading edge of a revolutionary approach to keeping motor vehicles safer in inclement weather. The next step, as early as next summer, will be to begin providing information to drivers about potentially hazardous conditions in their immediate vicinity, alerting them to slow down or take alternate routes.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR). Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Cite This Page:

National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR). "New technology targets slick winter highways." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 17 December 2013. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/12/131217123801.htm>.
National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR). (2013, December 17). New technology targets slick winter highways. ScienceDaily. Retrieved October 24, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/12/131217123801.htm
National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR). "New technology targets slick winter highways." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/12/131217123801.htm (accessed October 24, 2014).

Share This



More Science & Society News

Friday, October 24, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Ebola Protective Suits Being Made in China

Ebola Protective Suits Being Made in China

AFP (Oct. 24, 2014) A factory in China is busy making Ebola protective suits for healthcare workers and others fighting the spread of the virus. Duration: 00:38 Video provided by AFP
Powered by NewsLook.com
WHO: Millions of Ebola Vaccine Doses by 2015

WHO: Millions of Ebola Vaccine Doses by 2015

AP (Oct. 24, 2014) The World Health Organization said on Friday that millions of doses of two experimental Ebola vaccines could be ready for use in 2015 and five more experimental vaccines would start being tested in March. (Oct. 24) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Microsoft Riding High On Strong Surface, Cloud Performance

Microsoft Riding High On Strong Surface, Cloud Performance

Newsy (Oct. 24, 2014) Microsoft's Q3 earnings showed its tablets and cloud services are really hitting their stride. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
EU Gets Climate Deal, UK PM Gets Knock

EU Gets Climate Deal, UK PM Gets Knock

Reuters - Business Video Online (Oct. 24, 2014) EU leaders achieve a show of unity by striking a compromise deal on carbon emissions. But David Cameron's bid to push back EU budget contributions gets a slap in the face as the European Commission demands an extra 2bn euros. David Pollard reports. Video provided by Reuters
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:

Strange & Offbeat Stories


Science & Society

Business & Industry

Education & Learning

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile: iPhone Android Web
Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins