Professor develops sensor network to help manage winter roads

Professor develops sensor network to help manage winter roads

A road surface temperature sensor which provides real-time data on road conditions is set for adoption on the UK’s road and motorway network.

Developed at the University of Birmingham, the innovative tech won a national award at the Highways UK 2017 Intelligent Infrastructure Challenge.

Lee Chapman, professor of Climate Resilience at the University won the national award for a low-cost, non-invasive and self-contained road surface temperature sensor which remotely senses road surface temperature using infrared themometry.

The Wintersense sensors are Internet of Things enabled and use a new generation of low power communications to provide a real-time measurement of road surface temperature, that will be used to direct gritting lorries to priority areas.

The judging panel included representatives from Highways England, Transport Scotland, England’s Economic Heartland and Transport for the North (TfN). 

The judges felt that deploying this type of sensor network could have an immediate impact on their ability to better control gritting routines in winter.

Throughout the winter months, highways maintenance companies dispatch fleets of gritting lorries to prevent or mitigate the impact of black ice formation on motorways and A roads.

In harsh winters, the routing of gritting lorries has to be prioritised to ensure optimal road safety.

The University of Birmingham is an institution that has a long history of research into winter road sensing and forecasting.

Lee Chapman commented: “The key issue in this prioritisation is having good spatial resolution on observation of road surface conditions. 

“Our sensors are an order of magnitude cheaper than existing solutions, and light enough to be mounted on any lamp post, gantry or road sign, which means a dense network of sensors can be rapidly deployed along a road network to provide a highly granular picture of road surface conditions.” 

Wintersense provides an Internet of Things approach to sensing road surface temperatures. 

It is available through Altasense, which develops sensors that are Wi-Fi enabled (to leverage existing communication networks), low-cost (enabling dense networks to be deployed) and self-contained and battery powered for easy deployment.

The Highways UK 2017 Intelligent Infrastructure Challenge was a major event that brought together people and organisations involved in the planning, designing, building, operating and future-proofing of the UK's road networks.