Winter services can save many lives. As the days get colder and shorter, these services use snow plows and salt spreaders to keep roads safe, as well as monitor road conditions with real-time measurements.

Image credit: OTT HydroMet

Technical Services Offenburg (TBO), in a pilot project, demonstrated how its database could be improved with minimal effort.

This is a fairly ordinary looking bus that makes driving around Offenburg safer – all without any extra effort from the driver. The crucial element that houses the ingenious technology is installed at the back and is no larger than a bread box.

While driving, the Lufft MARWIS – the mobile road weather sensor – observes the state of the road and transmits the data in real time to the winter demining service. This is how the green frog bus detects acute traffic safety when it drives several times a day through the streets of Offenburg and neighboring municipalities.

The importance of data for security

One of the main challenges of winter road maintenance is the fight against ice. Workers use specialized vehicles to plow the road while spreading salt or alternative gravel to keep the road passable.

TBO Technical Services Manager Raphael Lehmann explains why winter clearance services need sensors to perform these tasks: “Road condition data helps us quickly assess the situation on our roads and prioritize operations”.

MARWIS has been in use in Offenburg since 2014. Since then, twelve sensors have been installed on TBO vehicles to monitor road conditions. The newest is the bus of the municipal transport company SWEG (Südwestdeutsche Landesverkehrs-AG).

This is a real win-win situation for TBO and SWEG, says Lehmann.

Lehmann summarizes the idea behind the pilot project.

The buses follow their route anyway. By monitoring the situation on the roads without any extra effort, they feed our database, allowing us to work faster and more efficiently. This benefits all road users, including SWEG buses.

Raphael Lehmann, Technical Services Manager, TBO

Evolution of winter road maintenance: from shoe control to digital maps

Lehmann explains, using an example, how the use of modern road sensor technology can improve road safety. Previously, road monitoring generally relied on the experience of winter maintenance workers and was often quite straightforward. “The employee was holding his foot out of the car and checking how slippery the road was,” he explained.

Increase road safety with sensors on board buses

Image credit: OTT HydroMet

Increase road safety with sensors on board buses

Image credit: OTT HydroMet

Today, workers use digital maps of the city that are overlaid with real-time measurements of the on the spot sensors. The software recommended by Lufft is ViewMondo. Raphael Lehmann sums up the work with mobile road weather sensors saying:

The driver and winter service management can see current road conditions in real time and assess within minutes if further action is required or if the most urgent action is required. In order to make the discussion of the current situation in the morning at 4 a.m. as clear as possible, we have implemented a traffic light system in ViewMondo. If it turns red in a district, our workers leave for a full shift.

Raphael Lehmann, Technical Services Manager, TBO

A promising start

The “MARWIS-Bus” pilot project in Offenburg is followed by new projects. For example, the transportation authority in the US state of Delaware, DelDOT – a satisfied customer for years – hopes to deploy a MARWIS by minibus.

“There is a lot of interest in this solution,” says Steven Marks, Sales Manager for Lufft Road Weather Solutions in German-speaking countries. “Wherever vehicles are on the road in urban areas, they could at the same time contribute to road safety without any effort.”

They use the MARWIS: Raphael Lehmann, Technical Services Offenburg, bus driver Edeltraud Himmelsbach and Konstantin Egert, SWEG.

They use the MARWIS: Raphael Lehmann, Technical Services Offenburg, bus driver Edeltraud Himmelsbach and Konstantin Egert, SWEG. Image credit: OTT HydroMet

A protective housing prevents the optical sensor from getting dirty.

A protective housing prevents the optical sensor from getting dirty. Image credit: OTT HydroMet

The MARWIS mobile road weather sensor turns vehicles into driving weather stations by detecting several critical road and track weather parameters.

The MARWIS mobile road weather sensor turns vehicles into driving weather stations by detecting several critical road and track weather parameters. Image credit: OTT HydroMet

Many airports use the MARWIS to monitor roadways, like here at Pau Pyrénées airport in France.

Many airports use the MARWIS to monitor pavements, like here at Pau Pyrénées airport in France. Image credit: OTT HydroMet

MARWIS is in service in many places around the world, such as here in Japan.

MARWIS is in service in many places around the world, such as here in Japan. Image credit: OTT HydroMet

But what do bus drivers think of their new job? Edeltraud Himmelsbach is happy with the new sensors installed on her bus. “I think it’s very good. There are two or three places on our road network where it can quickly become slippery in winter. With the sensor, my colleagues and I are helping the winter service to make the roads safer.

Intermunicipal cooperation for more road safety

The pilot project is expected to begin in the fall and winter of 2020/21. Raphael Lehmann imagines deploying MARWIS on more buses and other public transport in the future.

Additionally, Lehmann envisions inter-municipal cooperation where data is made available to neighboring communities.

In particular, construction sites in small villages, which do not themselves have road weather sensors but are part of the traffic area, would benefit from the data collected.

Raphael Lehmann, Technical Services Manager, TBO

The evolution of technology to help with winter maintenance still has plenty of room for further development.

Thanks

Produced from materials originally written by Martin Maly of OTT HydroMet. Lufft is one of OTT HydroMet’s strong brands for professional environmental monitoring.

This information has been extracted, revised and adapted from material provided by OTT HydroMet.

For more information on this source, please visit OTT HydroMet.


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