Surface Transportation Weather


Figure 1. Pikalert® Display over Wyoming
Figure 1. Pikalert® Display over Wyoming

RAL is a key contributor to the research and development of the weather component of the Federal Highway Administration's wireless Connected Vehicle program. RAL also continues to support the adoption of the winter Maintenance Decision Support System (MDSS) technology across the nation and to enhance transportation decision support systems.



The Connected Vehicle program is focused on improving safety, mobility, and environmental efficiency. This program will ultimately provide vehicle probe data (including weather data) from millions of vehicles that will be available to the weather community to support the diagnosis and short-term prediction of weather and road conditions (Figure 1). With funding and support from the USDOT Research and Innovative Technology Administration (RITA) and direction from the Federal Highway Administration's (FHWA) Road Weather Management Program, RAL conducts research to further develop the Pikalert® system including the Vehicle Data Translator (VDT). The Pikalert system incorporates vehicle-based measurements of the road and surrounding atmosphere with other, more traditional weather data sources, and creates road and atmospheric hazard products for a variety of users.

The Pikalert Enhanced Maintenance Decision Support System (EMDSS) represents the latest innovations in snow control. Building on years of MDSS development, the Pikalert EMDSS incorporates Connected Vehicle data into the forecast and decision process. As a result, end users can obtain information along the entire stretch of roadway, and not just at Road Weather Information System (RWIS) sites. This enables maintenance providers to better monitor and react to changing road conditions. They will be better equipped to make spot treatments on the road, improve safety, mobility, and reduce the environmental impact of de-icing chemicals.

The Pikalert Motorist Advisory and Warning (MAW) is a revolutionary approach for providing hyper-local, near real-time road weather information for the travelling public. Incorporating Connected Vehicle data, the MAW provides current inferences for visibility, road condition, and road precipitation. It also blends the Connected Vehicle data with a forecast engine to provide 24-hour forecasts of road weather conditions. Using the MAW, drivers will be able to plan routes in advance of their travel, including knowing which way to go and whether to delay travel. While on the road, a phone application keeps drivers abreast of changing road weather conditions via audio alerts of hazardous weather on the road ahead.

In FY2017 RAL made several enhancements to the Pikalert system. Working with a Significant Opportunities in Atmospheric Research and Science (SOARS) protégé, a high wind blowover risk was implemented as part of a project with the Wyoming DOT and is available across all instances of Pikalert. There are now four configurable alert levels for road weather hazards to allow the end user better control over which events trigger concern. Improvements were examined for the visibility algorithm and will be integrated soon into the system. In a major engineering achievement, the Pikalert system was installed in the Cloud. This advancement will facilitate deployment and technology transfer of Pikalert for state DOTs and other users.

Quality Checking for Speed, Volume, and Occupancy Observations

In FY2016, RAL developed a weather-impacted travel time forecasting system for the Colorado Department of Transportation (CDOT) using machine learning. This system is, in part, dependent on the quality of speed, volume, and occupancy (SVO) observations. In FY2017, RAL worked with CDOT to develop a system to flag SVO-observing equipment in need of repair based on a series of quality checking algorithms.

Enhanced Products for Alaska

RAL continued its collaboration with the state of Alaska to maintain the current Pikalert system across the state. The updated alert categories mentioned above are one of the achievements of this partnership in FY2017.

The WYDOT CV Pilot

RAL participated in the second phase of the Wyoming Department of Transportation (WYDOT) Connected Vehicle (CV) Pilot, which is a USDOT-funded initiative to move developed CV technologies out of the research arena and into operational deployment. During FY2017, RAL collaborated with the WYDOT CV Pilot team to move forward in the development phase. This major effort included installation of the Pikalert system for Wyoming, development of a high wind blowover risk algorithm, and additional Pikalert enhancements covered above along with extensive technical support to the wider WYDOT CV Pilot team.



RAL will continue to work with state partners in Minnesota, Michigan, Colorado, Nevada, Alaska, and Wyoming to create enhanced functionality in the Pikalert® System. New functionality will include incorporating additional Connected Vehicle data, improving the road weather hazard algorithms based on differing geographic regions, and continuing to seek partners in new states and other entities. 

Wyoming Department of Transportation

During the next year, RAL will support the WYDOT CV Pilot team in transitioning out of the development phase into the demonstration phase, where Pikalert will be running operationally across I-80. Additionally, WYDOT and RAL will work together on further enhancements to Pikalert outside the CV Pilot, including addition of a blowing snow algorithm.

Nevada Department of Transportation

RAL is coordinating with NDOT to further deploy and enhance Pikalert and EMDSS across the state.

® Pikalert is a registered trademark of the University Corporation for Atmospheric Research (UCAR).