The U.S. Department of Transportation has teamed up with the National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR) to design a system that will make snowplows more intelligent, making winter roads safer.
Known as the Pikalert Enhanced Maintenance Decision Support System (EMDSS), it combines the sensor measurements from satellite and radar observations and computer weather models to give officials a near-real time picture of road conditions. EMDSS is currently being activated on major highways across Michigan, Minnesota and Nevada. Providing updates every five to 15 minutes, the system will allow transportation officials to focus on dangerous stretches of road even before deteriorating conditions cause accidents.
With hundreds of snowplows and transportation supervisor trucks equipped with the sensors, the system can contribute to significantly safer roads. The system can ensure roads that don’t need plowing, salting or sanding are ignored so that roads that have been hit with harsher conditions can be worked on.
“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.”