Lidar is a technology that helps self-driving cars "see" the world around them, but researchers in Tennessee think the tech could be a boon to help treat snow and ice covered roads more effectively.
According to a Digital Trends report last week, the city of Knoxville, Tennessee, has introduced a lidar-equipped de-icer truck to test the new technology. The Department of Energy’s Oak Ridge National Laboratory and the University of Tennessee, Knoxville, developed the technology in conjunction with big data analytics.
The lidar data helped create what the city calls a "Road Vulnerability Index." The index shows crews the roads that are most vulnerable to icing over, and need extra treatment. For example, a road with a steep gradient and trees that could block the sun from melting ice on the roadways is ranked higher. Meanwhile, a flat road with plenty of exposure to the sun is least vulnerable. The lidar trucks understand the data and spray the optimal amount of brine (a de-icing agent) to the roads.
By conserving the resources, it could help save the city a lot of money in the process. No road receives the same amount of de-icer, which not only means more coverage for high-risk roads but also increased overall city coverage.
The city plans to run one truck this winter and city officials will comb through the data to understand the effectiveness. If it's proven effective, other areas could roll out similar technology. De-icing roads costs a lot of money, and one major storm can rip through a city's budget.