New Technology Helps Cars Spot Black Ice

Last year I wrote about a new technology that aims to make our roads safer in winter.  The tech is built into the road surface, and as cars drive over it, it releases a layer of salt, which the developers hope will prevent ice from forming on the road.

The new surface was capable of releasing salt evenly across the road  for two months in the lab environment, but the researchers believe it can achieve longer durations in real environments.

A team from the University of Nebraska worked on similar technology. The concrete has a small current running through it that is just strong enough to melt any snow or ice that lands on it, whilst remaining safe enough for us to touch.

The researchers have added a mixture of steel shavings and carbon particles to the concrete to allow it to conduct just enough electricity to melt ice and snow.

Detecting black ice

Whilst those projects aimed to de-ice the roads themselves, a Finnish consortium from EEE Innovations Ltd and VTT Technical Research Centre of Finland have been working on better means of detecting ice left on the road.  They’ve been developing technology to improve how black ice is detected by vehicles.

Their technology allows vehicles to detect slippery road conditions extremely accurately in real time, with costs minimal compared to existing methods.  The initial foray for the technology will be in heavy goods vehicles, but the team believe it can also be invaluable in private vehicles.

“The driving optimization system we have developed is the only one capable of recognizing the driver’s input in economical driving, taking also into account factors independent of the driver, such as weather conditions, traffic jams and vehicle-related differences,” the authors say.

The technology can easily be installed in the software commonly found in existing vehicles, but also as an independent installation if required.

“Our goal is to make all heavy vehicles moving slipperiness sensors and to refine the gathered data into valuable information, to benefit all traffic users and other parties,” the team say.

The system has already been piloted in Finland and via an EU-level test, with not only fuel savings of around 20%, but also improvements in road safety.  The challenge now will be to scale the technology up.