Increasing Road Safety with Sensors Aboard Buses

Services in winter can save numerous lives. As the days get colder and shorter, such services use snowplows and salt spreaders to ensure roads are safe, as well as monitor road conditions with real-time measurements.

Increasing Road Safety with Sensors Aboard Buses

Image Credit: OTT HydroMet

Technical Services Offenburg (TBO), in a pilot project, demonstrated how its database could be enhanced with minimal effort.

It is quite an ordinary-looking bus that makes traffic in Offenburg safer – all this without any extra effort required by the driver. The crucial feature that houses the ingenious technology is fitted at the rear and is no larger than a bread box.

Whilst driving, the Lufft MARWIS – the mobile road weather sensor – observes the road condition and transmits the data in real-time to the winter road clearance service. This is how the frog-green bus senses the acute traffic safety when operating along the streets of Offenburg and the neighboring communities multiple times a day.

The Importance of Data for Safety

One main challenge of winter road maintenance is combating icy roads. Workers utilize specialist vehicles to remove snow from the road whilst also spreading salt or alternative grit to keep the road rideable.

The Head of Technical Services at TBO, Raphael Lehmann, describes why the winter road clearance services require sensors to carry out these tasks: “The data on the road condition helps us to quickly assess the situation on our roads and to prioritize operations”.

The MARWIS has been used in Offenburg since 2014. Since then, twelve sensors have been installed on TBO vehicles to monitor the road condition. The most recent of which is the bus of the municipal transport company SWEG (Südwestdeutsche Landesverkehrs-AG).

This is a true win-win situation for TBO and SWEG, says Lehmann.

Lehmann encapsulates the idea behind the pilot project. 

The buses drive their route anyway. By monitoring the situation on the roads without any additional effort, they feed our database, enabling us to work faster and more efficiently. This benefits all road users – including the SWEG buses.

Raphael Lehmann, Head of Technical Services, TBO

Evolution of Winter Road Maintenance: From Shoe Check to Digital Maps

Lehmann explains, using an example, how the use of modern road sensor technology can improve traffic safety. Previously, road monitoring was usually based on the experience of winter maintenance workers and was often quite simple. “The employee would hold his foot out of the car and check how slippery the road was,” he explained.

Increasing Road Safety with Sensors Aboard Buses

Image Credit: OTT HydroMet

Increasing Road Safety with Sensors Aboard Buses

Image Credit: OTT HydroMet

Now, workers use digital city maps which are overlaid with real-time measurements from the in-situ sensors. The software recommended by Lufft is ViewMondo. Raphael Lehmann sums up the work with the mobile road weather sensors by saying:

Both the driver and the winter service management can view the current road conditions in real-time and evaluate within minutes whether further action is necessary or where the most urgent action is needed. In order to make the discussion of the current situation in the morning at 4 AM as clear as possible, we have set up a traffic light system in ViewMondo. If it jumps to red in a district, our workers set off for a full-service shift.

Raphael Lehmann, Head of Technical Services, TBO

A Promising Debut

The “MARWIS-Bus” pilot project in Offenburg is being followed up with new projects. For example, the US state of Delaware transport authority, DelDOT – a satisfied customer for years – hopes to deploy a MARWIS on a minibus.

“There is a great deal of interest in this solution,” says Steven Marks, Sales Manager for Lufft’s road weather solutions in German-speaking countries. “Wherever vehicles are on the road in urban areas, they could at the same time make a contribution to road safety without any effort”.

They are using the MARWIS: Raphael Lehmann, Technical Services Offenburg, bus driver Edeltraud Himmelsbach and Konstantin Egert, SWEG.

They are using the MARWIS: Raphael Lehmann, Technical Services Offenburg, bus driver Edeltraud Himmelsbach and Konstantin Egert, SWEG. Image Credit: OTT HydroMet

A protective housing prevents the optical sensor to get dirty.

A protective housing prevents the optical sensor to get dirty. Image Credit: OTT HydroMet

The mobile road weather sensor MARWIS turns vehicles into driving weather stations by detecting several critical road and runway weather parameters.

The mobile road weather sensor MARWIS turns vehicles into driving weather stations by detecting several critical road and runway weather parameters. Image Credit: OTT HydroMet

Many airports use the MARWIS to monitor roadways, as here at the airport Pau Pyrénées in France.

Many airports use the MARWIS to monitor roadways, as here at the airport Pau Pyrénées in France. Image Credit: OTT HydroMet

MARWIS is in service on many places all over the world, as here in Japan.

MARWIS is in service on many places all over the world, as here in Japan. Image Credit: OTT HydroMet

However, what do bus drivers think about their new job? Edeltraud Himmelsbach is pleased with the new sensors fitted to her bus. “I think that’s very good. There are two or three places in our road network where it can get slippery quite quickly in winter. With the sensor, my colleagues and I are helping the winter service to make the roads safer.”

Intercommunal Cooperation for More Traffic Safety

The pilot project is due to begin during the fall and winter of 2020/21. Raphael Lehmann imagines deploying MARWIS on more buses and other public transport in the future.

Additionally, Lehmann envisions intercommunal cooperation where the data is made available to neighboring communities.

Especially building yards in smaller villages, which do not themselves maintain road weather sensors but are part of the traffic area, would benefit from the collected data.

Raphael Lehmann, Head of Technical Services, TBO

The evolution of technology to assist winter maintenance still has plenty of room for further development.

Acknowledgments

Produced from materials originally authored by Martin Maly from OTT HydroMet. Lufft is one of OTT HydroMet's strong brands for professional environmental monitoring.

This information has been sourced, reviewed and adapted from materials provided by OTT HydroMet.

For more information on this source, please visit OTT HydroMet.

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