MDOT using sensors to detect weather and road conditions

NILES, Mich. -- The state of Michigan has deployed trucks equipped with sensors that measure weather and road conditions as they happen. Nevada, Minnesota and Michigan are the only states using the mobile weather tracking units.

In Michigan they have 60 trucks equipped with sensors to measure things like surface temperature, road roughness and humidity.

"If I have slippery conditions where my wheels are spinning, the camera will automatically activate and take a picture once every three seconds," said Steve Cook, Operations/Maintenance Field Services Engineer.

Those pictures are sent back to a server at the University of Michigan.

Cook says the Michigan Department of Transportation is proactively managing the roads through new sensors that evaluate weather conditions as they happen.

The Integrated Mobile Observation Project is funded by the Federal Highway Administration.

"You think about deploying hundreds of thousands of these, imagine the data that you could collect. Imagine the impact on how we could manage weather, and especially winter time storm events," said Cook.

Their hope is to use the research based on the data collected now, will help them make better decisions in the future, like how much salt should be spread on the roads and where.

Michigan spent $30 million on road salt last year.

"The bottom line this is about safety, this is about saving lives. And of course, the other piece of it is saving tax dollars," said Cook.

There's a strong desire to save some of that money and put it towards other ways to make driving safer.

"We can tell the motorist where those conditions are deteriorating and maybe allow them to not come out on the road at all because of the deterioration or maybe take a different route," said Cook.

The project is still in the research phase and the state is still several years away from implementing the technology on a large scale.


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