Iowa DOT Keeps Drivers Safer with Live Snowplow Cameras

AASHTO Journal, 7 March 2014

Iowa Department of Transportation is keeping motorists across the state informed on road conditions during snowstorms and their aftermath with new snowplow cameras, allowing drivers to see what roads are really like and make better travel decisions.

The cameras take photos from the dashboard of the vehicles to show actual conditions that drivers would experience on those stretches of roadway. Iowa DOT first tested plow cameras in 100 or so winter maintenance vehicles in central Iowa, but soon decided to create a system to allow the public to utilize the technology as well. Plow camera images are now available to the public through the snowplow location map. Users can click on one of the plows on the map to get current conditions of the road (outside temperature, direction of the plow, etc.) and also take a look for themselves via the photo. The photos only remain on the site for 30 minutes after they are taken to make sure users see the most up-to-date information possible.

“The images increase the amount of information available to travelers to assist them in making safer and more informed travel decisions during winter weather,” said John Hart of Iowa DOT’s Office of Maintenance in a statement. “It’s one thing to see a 511 map with pink or blue roads indicating completely or partially covered roads. But these terms can mean different things to different people. Being able to see the road condition out the windshield of a snowplow gives a better indication of the actual travel conditions on the road right now.”

The photos are taken from the iPhone 4s, provided at no cost by the data carrier with the purchase of a data plan, which was negotiated at a reduced rate.

“We believe the benefits far outweigh the costs for this project,” Hart said. “We want to make the best possible use of our resources. We have already proven that having these images available saves time and money for our winter operations, and we’re hopeful that the increased information for travelers will help save lives, too.”

Iowa DOT officials say that while the pilot program focused on central Iowa, the department plans to extend out to other areas of the state, hopefully covering a majority of the state by next winter.

Iowa DOT’s snowplow location map can be found here.

This entry was posted in Equipment, New Technology, News. Bookmark the permalink.

Comments are closed.