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Caltrans unveils life-saving Fog Pilot project

February 27, 2009

Caltrans unveils life-saving Fog Pilot project

Right: Foggy conditions are a particular cause of traffic accidents on many of California’s highways

California Department of Transportation (Caltrans) and California Highway Patrol (CHP) in the USA are working on a project called “Fog Pilot” aimed at using technology to cut the frequency and severity of car crashes caused by fog and extreme weather.

Fog Pilot is a comprehensive fog and reduced-speed warning system that is being trialled on a 19km (12-mile) stretch of freeway along State Route (SR) 99 in California’s Central Valley. This particular stretch of freeway is notorious for dangerous fog conditions, and was the site of a deadly 86-car collision in November 2007.

“The combination of harsh fog conditions and irresponsible driving often result in deadly multivehicle accidents along this stretch of road,” says Central Division CHP chief Jim Abrames. “This system will play a key role in identifying and alerting drivers to dangerous conditions, empowering them with the information necessary to take precaution and, ultimately, to save lives.”

As fog conditions increase in severity, traffic speeds tend to decrease rapidly. When you combine the rapid decrease in traffic speeds with decreased visibility, it makes it easy for faster traffic coming into heavy fog zones to collide with the slower traffic ahead. The Fog Pilot system keeps drivers updated on upcoming speeds and visibility in advance, so they can slow down and adjust their driving as necessary.

Fog Pilot integrates multiple technologies including 21 weather detection stations, microwave vehicle/motion detectors placed at one-mile intervals, visibility sensors, closed circuit television (CCTV) cameras and 33 changeable message signs.

All of these components communicate and are connected wirelessly via Proxim Wireless’s Tsunami MP.11 5054 base stations and 5012 subscriber units, which utilize high performance, license-free WiMAX technology to wirelessly transmit the large amount of data generated. The data and components are managed and controlled centrally by ICx Technologies’ Cameleon ITS Transportation Management Software.

The Fog Pilot system uses advanced automation technology to process and deliver the weather warnings automatically to drivers via the changeable message signs in under 30 seconds.

“We have complete confidence that this system will both reduce accidents and save lives during the winter fog season,” says CALTRANS District 6 director, Malcolm X. Dougherty. “Our US$12 million investment in this system will be well worth it if it can help save even one life.”

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