InTrans / Jan 05, 2022

InTrans researchers developing navigation system for blizzard conditions

A research team led by the Institute for Transportation’s Real-Time Analytics of Transportation Data (REACTOR) Laboratory Co-Director Anuj Sharma is working to develop a new navigation system for Iowa snowplows to aid operators in the worst winter conditions.

“That person operating the snowplow in the snow is facing so much workload and stress,” said Sharma, who is also the Pitt-Des Moines, Inc., Professor in Civil Engineering at Iowa State University. “We want to at least give them a helping hand and some tools to help.”

The two-year project funded by the Iowa Department of Transportation (DOT) will allow the research team to test and tie together sensors, radar, lidar 3D scanning, Global Positioning System (GPS) navigation, thermal imaging, cameras, artificial intelligence systems, algorithms, human-computer interfaces and other technologies. They’ll determine which sensors and technologies can withstand winter conditions and maintain their accuracy in a whiteout.

Working with the Iowa DOT, the researchers will also examine which technologies are most useful to a snowplow operator. Next steps include learning how all those data streams can be fed into a computer and displayed in a way that helps drivers make decisions without distracting them. Once the researchers understand how all the sensors and interfaces work together, they’ll equip a real snowplow and do simulations and eventually road tests.

“This is a very exciting project,” said Sharma. “We have access to today’s technology. And we want to jump the technology gap to prove this concept rather than waiting for industry to catch up.”

Read more about the project here.