With winter in full swing across a number of northern states and many Americans driving home after spending the holidays with family, the icy and snowy roads are being given no shortage of attention. But a new plan from the National Center for Atmospheric Research and funded by the US Department of Transportation is given authorities new abilities when it comes to combatting dangerous winter roads.
With a new system called Pikalert Enhanced Maintenance Decision Support System, snowplows in Michigan, Minnesota and Nevada will be fitted with sensors in their plows. The sensors will monitor road and weather conditions, and work with satellite, radar sensors and weather models to allow authorities to get more accurate updates on road conditions, thereby better allocating road-clearing efforts.
“This offers the potential to transform winter driving safety,” said Sheldon Drobot, an NCAR scientist behind the EMDSS 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.”
Using the system should ensure that roads that don’t need plowing, salting or sanding are ignored in favor of areas that have been harder hit. “With information like this, we can more accurately pinpoint changing road conditions … and alert drivers of potential hazardous conditions before they encounter them,” said Steven Cook, an operations and maintenance field services engineer with the Michigan DoT. “We want to reduce that white-knuckle experience of suddenly skidding on ice.”