The maintenance of Swedish winter roads is largely based on 780 automatic weather stations scattered across the country. Torbjörn Gustavsson and Jörgen Bogren, researchers at the Department of Earth Sciences, want to change this. As a result of their research, each new Volvo may soon be instrumented to measure weather and road conditions.
The annual cost of Swedish winter road maintenance is about SEK 2 billion. Since the early 1980s, the work has been based on the Swedish Transport Administration’s road weather information system VVis. The system consists of 780 measurement stations across the country that continuously collect information about the weather conditions. One disadvantage of the stations is that the information they provide gives a somewhat limited picture of the road conditions. The solution? Taking advantage of the cars that are actually driving on the roads.
‘By collecting information from vehicles on the roads, we would get a much better real-time understanding of what it’s like out there,’ says Gustavsson.
A modern car monitors a number of parameters in its surroundings, such as temperature and precipitation. This is the type of data that Gustavsson and Bogren want to collect and merge with the information from VVis. This would have obvious benefits for the maintenance of winter roads.
‘Better planning would save money, and better information would help prevent many accidents and keep cars from getting stuck in snow,’ says Gustavsson.
The road status information project (RSI) is a collaboration including the University of Gothenburg and Volvo Cars AB. Both Gustavsson and Bogren have been involved in similar studies in the past, with the common denominator that their work has yielded new knowledge about combining data from mobile vehicles with other, stationary, data. Previously, however, those in charge of road maintenance have not actually used the information generated; instead, the projects have focused on developing the technology as such. The purpose of RSI is to develop the technology further and apply it more in practice.
‘Today’s technology makes it easier to handle large amounts of data, so the time has definitely come to bring this type of technology to this level,’ says Bogren.
The operative phase of the RSI project will start this winter, and the long-term goal is for all new Volvos to contribute important information to winter road maintenance workers across the country.
The RSI project is a collaboration between the Swedish Transport Administration, the Norwegian Public Roads Administration, Klimator AB, Volvo VCC, Road-IT AB, the University of Gothenburg and Vianova. Previous projects within the same area include BiFi, an initiative that focused on the bearing capacity of roads where rural postal vehicles were instrumented to measure frost in the ground.
Different types of vehicle fleets will be used to collect data within a test area. The project will yield information about how many vehicles are needed to cover a certain region and how sufficient coverage of the road system can be achieved. The resulting information will help establish a national system.