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Where the Weather Meets the Road: A Research Agenda for Improving Road Weather Services
problem that can be significantly mitigated by appropriate action, not a situation that simply has to be endured.
The idea of smart vehicles in constant communication with weather information providers and traffic control centers, commercial fleets constantly adjusting their routing to avoid anticipated storms, and road maintenance personnel being guided continuously by telemetered in-road sensors no longer needs to be limited to the realm of science fiction. Rather, over the course of the next 15 years a focused road weather research program could deliver this as a reality to the nation saving thousands of lives and billions of dollars. The committee sees the road weather system of 2020 as including a robust observation and communication infostructure,1 models to support decisions, smart vehicles, enhanced roadway maintenance, and enhanced traffic and emergency management.
On her way to pick up her children from band practice Karen notes the dark clouds of a thunderstorm rapidly approaching. Meanwhile, computers at a private meteorological service are using data from the National Weather Service and the Kansas Department of Transportation to produce a highly specific “pathcast” for the storm, indicating which areas are expected to be affected. This pathcast takes advantage of a sophisticated four-dimensional data assimilation system that integrates local data from lightning sensors, radars, surface-observing stations, wind profilers, and stream gauges, to name but a few. Karen’s in-vehicle communication system beeps three times and relays a message that the storm, which will be accompanied by lightning, gusty winds, and heavy rain with the possibility of flash flooding, will reach her location within 30 minutes. As the rain begins to fall heavily she worries about flooding of the nearby creek that already is high due to heavy rain during the past couple of days. Karen tells the hands-free communication system her destination and requests that it identify an alternate route to circumvent the nearby creek. The system integrates both weather and traffic information to send Karen on a safer route that will avoid flooded streets but remain uncongested.
Infostructure is the network of data collection and dissemination necessary to support realtime management and operation of the roadway transportation system. It often is focused on congestion management, security management, emergency management, and weather response (Cambridge and Mitretek, 2003).