Road Management & Engineering Journal
Road Management & Engineering Journal
January, 2000
TranSafety, Inc.
(360) 683-6276
Fax: (360) 335-6402

SAFEPLOW: Geared Up

(This article is reproduced, with permission, from the Fall/Winter 1999 Edition of Minnesota Guidestar, a publication of the Minnesota Department of Transportation's Office of Advanced Transportation Systems.)

Minnesota Guidestar's Intelligent Vehicle Initiative (IVI) efforts came together in one amazing snowplow that traveled to the Transportation Research Center in East Liberty, Ohio, for Demo '99 this summer. Minnesota's SAFEPLOW showcased several integrated IVI technologies geared toward improving travel in poor visibility conditions. Each application has been developed in separate research and operational test projects. Integrated in SAFEPLOW, they represent a critical step toward successfully migrating research and operational test work into a deployed environment for use in daily maintenance operations.

The SAFEPLOW featured:

Differential GPS Guidance: Used to provide lateral guidance and driver assistance. Data from the guidance is provided to the driver through a heads-up display developed by the University of Minnesota.

Magnetic Lateral Warning and Guidance TapeTM: Developed by 3M, magnetic tape installed along lane boundaries is detected by sensing arm. On board the plow the driver[s] [have] information indicating their position on the road relative to the magnetic tape.

Heads-Up Display: Developed by the University of Minnesota, the heads-up display projects an image of lane boundaries, helping the driver detect the edge of the roadway. The heads-up display also integrates radar-based obstacle tracking to project obstacle location on the display.

Virtual Rumble Strips: Based on DGPS feedback on the vehicle's lane position, the steering wheel vibrates to alert the operator[s] that they are departing from the lane boundaries.

Forward/Rear Radar and Side Detection Collision Warning: Developed by Altra Technologies, Inc., forward looking radar allows plow drivers to detect unseen obstacles in the road ahead. Rear radar activates high intensity lights to alert travelers they are approaching the rear of a plow that may be hidden by a snowcloud. Side detectors, activated when the turn signal is on, alert plow drivers of objects alongside them.

Automatic Vehicle Location (AVL) for Data Collection and Tracking: ThomTech Design has developed two AVL components. First, an on-board unit provides two-way messaging and remote data collection to enhance snow fighting capability. Second, real-time data is also displayed on digital maps at dispatcher workstations.

Mn/DOT's technical liaison for SAFEPLOW, John Scharffbillig, has worked in maintenance for 21 years. Representing a tough audience for IVI technology, Scharffbillig says, "This plow will knock your socks off! I never thought we would get all of this working together in one plow, but we have and it's incredible."

SAFEPLOW is just one stage of the IVI research in Minnesota. In September Mn/DOT was awarded $3.8 million to expand IVI operational tests on specialty vehicles. This funding will be used to test IVI technologies installed on four snowplows, an ambulance, and a state patrol vehicle along Trunk Highway 7.

SAFEPLOW integrated several IVI initiatives into one vehicle.



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