Michigan’s Department of Transportation is testing ways that technology can help improve road conditions during winter weather.
Michigan has armed 60-fleet vehicles with sensor technology that collects data on roadway conditions in nine counties along the I-94 corridor.
“This technology has the very real potential to make winter driving safer and winter road maintenance more efficient and effective,” said State Transportation Director Kirk Steudle.
The Federal Highway Administration Roadway Weather Management Program, MDOT, and the University of Michigan Transportation Research Institute are conducting MDOT’s Integrated Mobile Observations research.
The research involves outfitting fleet vehicles with sensors to collect atmospheric condition data and data about the state of the pavement condition from a smartphone mounted on the vehicle’s dashboard as it travels down the road.
Data collected from MDOT fleet vehicles is sent every 5 minutes to a secure server at UMTRI and then on to the National Center for Atmospheric Research in Colorado.
NCAR will use the data to explore and develop applications to provide near real-time advisory warnings for motorists and provide snowplow drivers with improved weather forecasts and road treatment applications.
Michigan, along with Nevada and Minnesota, are testing similar types of technology.
IMO Project Manager Steve Cook said the research is being done to develop technology that will prioritize winter maintenance to improve safety, save money and have less of an impact on the environment by reducing the amounts of salt and chemicals being used to clear roads.
“Information from these vehicles is important in three ways,” Cook said. “The data will allow us to provide better forecasts and information for the operators who are managing the storm, make roads safer for drivers, and help protect the environment.”