Reducing the ice hazard on smart motorways

Lead Research Organisation: University of Birmingham
Department Name: Sch of Geography, Earth & Env Sciences

Abstract

This co-designed project with Highways England will reduce the ice hazard on motorways. As part of a nationwide trial of smart motorways, 'all lane' and 'hard shoulder running' are being used to increase capacity on critical sections of the GB motorway network. However, this approach, along with traditional road widening, has implications for winter road maintenance strategy. Significant surface temperature differences exist between lanes on motorways and it is not uncommon to find a difference of 2C between the inside and outside lane of the motorway. For example, in the case of hard shoulder running, differences between the inside lane and the previously un-trafficked hard shoulder of the motorway will be significant. A consequence of this, is when the hard shoulder is first opened to traffic (e.g. during the morning rush hour), an ice hazard may exist on this lane, whilst the other lanes remain above freezing. There is a need to better understand, and monitor, these differences in temperature so that it can be incorporated into the winter maintenance strategy used by Highways England.

This project will translate existing technology developed on previous research projects to quantify the temperature difference between motorway lanes. The data will be available in real time, using an 'internet of things' approach alerting engineers of the need to conduct gritting operations on cooler lanes. Hence, this project will not only impact on the actions of the project partners (potentially saving money on gritting operations), but will also improve the safety of the network for all road users. The project is particularly timely given the ongoing inquiry into 'all lane running' by the commons select transport committee.

The overall aim of this project is to produce a prototype decision support system that will provide information regarding the surface temperature of all motorway lanes which can be used to make efficiency savings as well as being consulted prior to opening the hard shoulder to traffic. This aim will be realised by the following objectives:
1. Installation of transects of networked low-cost sensors across motorway gantries, providing surface temperature information across all lanes.
2. Development of a cloud based data hub to process and visualise data
3. Integration of data into existing winter maintenance / smart motorways strategies.

This short project has two key deliverables. Firstly, the project will provide tacit knowledge of temperature differences on multi-laned roads. This information can then be used inform winter maintenance strategy more generally across the network without significant further investment. Secondly, the prototype decision support system will provide detailed and reliable real-time measurements on the selected road section leading to efficiency savings for the project partner. This approach could readily be extended across the network, given the compatibility of this approach with the 'smart motorway' approach. The project will last for 7 months to cover a substantial part of the winter season (November 2016 - May 2017) and will cost in the region of £70k (£56k 80% FEC).

Planned Impact

This project will produce for the first time a road weather information system specifically designed to measure temperature difference across a multi-laned road. Whilst just a pilot, and the bigger potential impacts are longer term, this project has a number of outcomes for Highways England:

1. Tacit knowledge regarding temperature variations on different lanes of the motorway.
2. Indicative cost savings from business as usual by using one gritter instead of two on wide motorway sections on marginal nights.
3. Quantification of the safety related issues in opening the hard shoulder on marginal nights.
4. Build a business case to inform asset replacement strategies (i.e. bigger sensor networks, refined outstation networks, new generation of gritters to deal with widened motorways)

The project is also designed to maximise exposure to both the concept of this project and broader applications of the technology. The trade shows identified will ensure UK sector-wide awareness of the work and thus potential impacts are likely away from the project in local authorities and other national road agencies.

Other key stakeholders are taxpayers and users of the motorway network benefiting from the improved use of resources and a safer network to travel on in winter respectively.

Publications

10 25 50
 
Description There are large variations in road surface temperature both along and across the road. The IoT can be used to quantify these differences at a low cost and could potentially transfrom the way in which anti-icing chemicals are applied to the roads.
Exploitation Route The results are being commercialised by a university operating division. Indeed, Kier (who operate the trunk road used on the trial) are working with us to take the work forward.
Sectors Transport

URL http://www.wintersense.com
 
Description The findings are being commercialised via a university operating division. This project dramatically improved both sensor design and server architecture. A number of customers have now bought this iteration of the technology.
First Year Of Impact 2018
Sector Transport
Impact Types Societal,Economic,Policy & public services

 
Description Winter Maintenance Practice
Geographic Reach National 
Policy Influence Type Influenced training of practitioners or researchers
Impact The wintersense product is now under trial in several local authorities (and soon to be motorways). The data it provides is changing the way local authorities are conducting winter road maintenance as they more to more 'risk-based' decision making. It is still early days, but the lead academic has already presented to practitioners at the annual cold comfort trade show and is starting to influence national guidance via the National Winter Service Research Group (NWSRG) where it featured in a highways magazine article as a NWSRG voice.
 
Description Railway Standards & Safety Board ADHERE
Amount £55,191 (GBP)
Funding ID COF-AUT 
Organisation Rail Safety and Standards Board Ltd 
Start 10/2018 
End 01/2019
 
Description UKCRIC - CORONA: City Observatory Research platfOrm for iNnovation and Analytics
Amount £1,011,544 (GBP)
Funding ID EP/R013411/1 
Organisation Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) 
Sector Academic/University
Country United Kingdom
Start 02/2018 
End 01/2020
 
Description University of Birmingham EPSRC Impact Accelaration Account
Amount £24,500 (GBP)
Organisation Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) 
Sector Academic/University
Country United Kingdom
Start 12/2017 
End 06/2018
 
Description University of Birmingham EPSRC Impact Acceleration Account
Amount £42,647 (GBP)
Organisation University of Birmingham 
Sector Academic/University
Country United Kingdom
Start 04/2019 
End 03/2020
 
Description Highways England 
Organisation Department of Transport
Department Highways Agency
Country United Kingdom 
Sector Public 
PI Contribution Project partners on the 'reducing the ice-hazard on smart motorways' project. We continue to work extensively together to use the technology across the wider network.
Collaborator Contribution Following success at the Intelligent Infrastructure Awards in 2017, Highways England have agreed to sponsor the wintersense product with a view to a wider roll out.
Impact Early stage at the time of writing.
Start Year 2016
 
Description IceWatch 
Organisation IceWatch
PI Contribution A nationwide sensor network for winter maintenance of car-parks. A sensor network of 10 sites was installed over 2017/18.
Collaborator Contribution site access.
Impact n/a
Start Year 2017
 
Description MeteoGroup 
Organisation MeteoGroup
PI Contribution A MoU was signed in 2017 for greater collaboration between the University and Meteogroup. The first area of collaboration to be explored was the wintersense product.
Collaborator Contribution Access to test sites in the Netherlands.
Impact n/a
Start Year 2017
 
Description Pinacl 
Organisation Pinacl Solutions (UK) Ltd
PI Contribution Worked together to adapt the wintersense technology for use on LoRa networks managed for clients by Pinacl.
Collaborator Contribution Access to networks.
Impact n/a
Start Year 2017
 
Description Rotherham Council 
Organisation Rotherham Metropolitan Borough Council
PI Contribution Installation of a small scale sensor network for evaluation purposes.
Collaborator Contribution Just financial.
Impact Early stage.
Start Year 2017
 
Description Telensa 
Organisation Telensa Limited
PI Contribution Prototype integration of wintersense within Telensa streetlight systems
Collaborator Contribution n/a
Impact n/a
Start Year 2017
 
Description Webthings 
Organisation Webthings Group Ltd
Country United Kingdom 
Sector Private 
PI Contribution Introduced the application of the technology to an SME with capability to further develop the idea.
Collaborator Contribution In kind development of new boards to harness LPWAN communications.
Impact 2nd generation sensor which has been deployed in multiple local authorities. Work ongoing to develop new generation of sensors.
Start Year 2016
 
Description Wigan County Council 
Organisation Wigan Council
Country United Kingdom 
Sector Public 
PI Contribution We have installed a sensor network consisting of the next generation sensor developed from the wintersense project.
Collaborator Contribution Paid for installations for winter season 2016/17. Network extended 2017/18 and 2018/19.
Impact Live sensor network, not yet used operationally.
Start Year 2016
 
Description Cold Comfort 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact Annual stand at Cold Comfort to showcase low cost sensors to the industry. Led to significant interest and resulted in commercialisation plans being brought forward as well as an editorial in Surveyor magazine (2015) and a plenary in 2017.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2015,2016,2017,2018
 
Description Invited Presentation at Highways UK trade show 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Industry/Business
Results and Impact This was an invited presentation entitled ' Using the Internet of things to transform UK Winter Service' given as part of Highways UK 2017. The invitation was as a result of an entry into the Intelligent Infrastructure Awards of which we won the national category (industrial recognition for wintersense). This was heavily tweeted on social media by the organisers and we received a number of follow-up enquiries as a result. Of particular importance was following winning the prize, Highways England offered to sponsor follow up trials of the technology on the motorway network (work in addition to the current NERC grant). This has been picked up by the press (see URL below for an example)
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2017
URL https://www.wirelessdesignmag.com/blog/2017/11/sensors-could-make-winter-road-conditions-easier-pred...
 
Description Invited Presentation at Lux LIve 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Industry/Business
Results and Impact This invited talk was entitled: Snow joke: Street lights role in weather response. It reached a broad international audience with a particular interest in smart cities. There have been follow up activities where we have been approached by companies interested in including our sensing technology as part of their offer. Prototype sensors have since been sent to one interested partner.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2017
URL http://smartspacescampus.com/programme/
 
Description NWSRG Voices 
Form Of Engagement Activity A magazine, newsletter or online publication
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact We wrote an 'NWSRG Voices' piece for www.highwaysmagazine.co.uk. NWSRG are an influential group in the area of winter road maintenance who steer best practice. Featuired in the January/February edition.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2019
URL https://www.highwaysmagazine.co.uk/
 
Description Plenary at Cold Comfort 2017 Trade Show 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact Invited plenary at Cold Comfort 2017 to discuss the role of the internet of things in winter road maintenance. Attended by nearly every local authority from across the UK (as well as international visitors). We also held a stand at the accompanying trade show where we received a huge amount of interest in the wintersense product which has subsequently led to sales.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2017