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Smarter snow plows might be on the way

Published December 31, 2013 9:39 pm

This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2013, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

Boulder, Colo. • Michigan, Minnesota and Nevada are deploying hundreds of plows with custom-designed sensors that continually measure road and weather conditions. The digital system, funded by the U.S. Department of Transportation, is designed to reduce accidents and save states potentially millions of dollars in maintenance. The system is being built at the National Center for Atmospheric Research in Boulder.

If the national pilot program proves successful in the test phase, it will be transferred to private vendors and made available to more states by the 2014-15 winter season.

The system combines sensor measurements with satellite, radar observations and computer weather models, producing near-real time pictures of road conditions. With updates as frequent as every five minutes, transportation officials can promptly see potential problem areas before accidents occur.

Giving snowplows a more immediate picture of changing conditions just down the road could carry a wide range of benefits, said Sheldon Drobot, the scientist who has overseen the system's design.