5B.1 Convergence of Weather and Vehicles Technologies

Tuesday, 9 January 2018: 10:30 AM
Room 10AB (ACC) (Austin, Texas)
Paul A. Pisano, U.S. Department of Transportation/Federal Highway Administration, Washington, DC; and G. Guevara, R. Alfelor, R. Murphy, and B. C. Boyce

Weather has a significant impact on the operations of the nation’s roadway system year-round. Weather may prompt travelers to change departure times, cancel trips, choose an alternate route, or select a different mode; slick pavements, low visibility, and lane obstructions lead to driving at lower speeds or with increased following distances. These changes in behavior can reduce the throughputs at traffic signals that are timed for clear and dry conditions. Travel reliability for motorists and commercial vehicle operators is also affected by a variety of weather conditions. Weather also impacts the operational effectiveness and productivity of traffic management agencies and road maintenance agencies through increased costs and lost time. It is, therefore, an important responsibility of traffic and maintenance managers to implement operational strategies that optimize system performance by mitigating the effects of weather on the roadways. Accurate, timely, route-specific weather information, allows traffic and maintenance managers to better operate and maintain roads under adverse conditions.

The FHWA Road Weather Management Program (RWMP) is currently demonstrating how weather, road condition, and related vehicle data can be collected, transmitted, processed, and used for decision making through the Integrated Mobile Observations (IMO) project. Three states are involved in the IMO project – the Minnesota, Nevada, and Michigan departments of transportation. IMO, is about deploying vehicle-based instrumentation to support improved weather-related maintenance and traffic management strategies. Weather data collected on agency vehicles provides information for traffic and maintenance operations alike, including filling in data gaps along critical routes and logging plow truck actions while in operation.

The Nevada Department of Transportation has identified targeted impacts utilizing IMO data. The first targeted impact is the deployment of an MDSS (Maintenance Decision Support System) for winter operations at NDOT. Although an MDSS does not strictly require the mobile data features of the NIMO system, mobile weather data has the potential to greatly impact road weather forecasting, and is envisioned to be particularly important in the “microclimates” of Nevada, which make weather forecasting more difficult.

The second targeted impact is the implementation of an MMS (Material Monitoring System) for better tracking of where materials (sand, salt, etc.) are deployed, and what the impact was. As more snow plows are instrumented with the NIMO system, this will become more feasible and provide higher resolution information than is currently available to road maintenance crews.

Future impacts beyond these two (MDSS and MMS) are envisioned to also be likely. These may include a greater informing and engagement of motorists through providing travel alerts, recommendations, and (eventually) crowd-sourcing of travel weather related information.

Connected vehicle technologies such as IMO and automated vehicles hold the promise to transform road -weather management. Road weather connected vehicle applications will dramatically expand the amount of data that can be used to assess, forecast, and address the impacts that weather has on roads, vehicles, and travelers; fundamentally changing the manner in which weather-sensitive transportation system management and operations are conducted. The broad availability of road weather data from an immense fleet of mobile sources will vastly improve the ability to detect and forecast road weather and pavement conditions, and will provide the capability to manage road-weather response on specific roadway links.

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