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Researchers Conjure High-Tech Navigation Tools for Snowplows in Blizzards


snowplow operating in a storm

Researchers hope to add driver-assist technologies to workhorse vehicles.

Credit: Getty Images

A research team at Iowa State University is developing a new navigation system to help snowplows operate in extreme conditions. A two-year, $502,265 grant from the Iowa Department of Transportation is supporting their work.
"Snowplow operators can struggle to see and have a tough time navigating the road," says Tina Greenfield of the Iowa DOT's Road Weather Information System. "Our snowfighters are in these humongous vehicles [and] there are times when the visibility is so bad, even they need to be pulled off the road until visibility improves."

Iowa State Professor Anuj Sharma and his collaborators want to test and tie together sensors, radar, LiDAR 3D scanning, GPS navigation, thermal imaging, cameras, artificial intelligence systems, algorithms, human-computer interfaces, and other technologies to determine which can withstand winter conditions and maintain their accuracy in a whiteout. They will also examine which technologies are most useful to a snowplow operator.

They plan to equip a real snowplow, do simulations and, eventually road tests. The entire system will be based within the vehicle, Sharma says.

From Iowa State University
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