In Quebec, the Laurentians region is renowned for its abrupt changes in weather conditions. Episodes of blowing snow (very fine snow pushed by the wind) are particularly dangerous. Since last winter, the Quebec Ministry of Transport has been carrying out a pilot project to detect blowing snow on a portion of Route 175 located in the reserve. Drivers could be notified in real time through smart sensors.
The Laurentides wildlife reserve, located between the regions of Quebec and Saguenay-Lac-Saint-Jean, is a territory of 7861 km2. Hunters, sports fishermen, outdoor enthusiasts practice their favorite activities in a preserved wild environment.
Route 175, which connects Quebec City to the Saguenay region, is renowned for its dangerousness, especially in the portion that crosses the Laurentides wildlife reserve.
In winter, ice, snow and blowing snow complicate traffic. The altitude, strong winds and cold make visibility and snow removal difficult. Artificial intelligence could improve driver safety.
Artificial intelligence to detect blowing snow
It is between Kms 104 and 110 that the Quebec Ministry of Transport decided to install the sensors, and this, in both directions. In this section, which is particularly at risk, it is impossible to install fences or windbreak hedges. The spokesperson for the Quebec Ministry of Transport, Émilie Lord, explains:
“The sensors do not prevent blowing snow on the road, whereas the windbreak hedges precisely have a function of preventing the wind, therefore of creating blades of snow or blowing snow. But by having sensors on site, we are able to warn motorists. »
The solution in place uses artificial intelligence combined with blowing snow detection sensors to inform users in real time of conditions on Route 175.
These specialized sensors can thus differentiate precipitation and identify blowing snow. In addition, video surveillance cameras store data on current weather conditions and, thanks to artificial intelligence, validate the information from the sensors.
Emilie Lord adds:
“The sensors and the cameras detect precipitation x, it is confirmed by the cameras and then we add to a database which means that in the long term, they will be able to tell us if it is blowing snow or another form of precipitation. »
If blowing snow is detected, caution and awareness messages adapted to the situation will be displayed on the variable message signs (VMS) installed around the areas concerned, to urge drivers to be careful.
An Integrated Traffic Management Center (ITMC) operator will have confirmed the alert signal received from the sensor before updating the VMS messages.
According to the Quebec Ministry of Transport, the detection system still needs to be trained on different weather conditions for it to be truly reliable, so the sensors will be operational and autonomous.
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Quebec: Artificial Intelligence to improve road safety during blowing snow
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