CTS research provides "eyes in the storm"

Researchers from the University's Intelligent Vehicles Lab in the Center for Transportation Studies are trying to make driving a snowplow, a state patrol car, or even a bus a little easier during Minnesota snowstorms.

Researchers are using the global positioning system (GPS), a digital map database, obstacle detection radar, and a head-up display to give drivers a "virtual reality" representation of the road when driving conditions reduce visibility to near zero.

The GPS identifies a snowplow's exact location and offers real-time mapping accuracy when combined with digital maps showing the location of road landscape markers such as lane boundaries, guard rails, and signs. The head-up display uses this information to make it possible for drivers to "see" the road even when their eyes can't perceive it.

At the same time, the display depicts vehicles traveling in front of the plow as white or red boxes (depending on their proximity). These cues alert the driver and greatly reduce the chance of collisions.

To date, the Minnesota Department of Transportation and the University have equipped four snowplows, one state patrol car, and one metro bus with this equipment.