System automatically detects black ice on roads in real time

Finland’s VTT Technical Research Centre has developed a system for drivers that automatically detects black ice on roads.

Black-ice detection is based on a method developed by VTT, whereby changes in road conditions are detected in real time, based on data collected by the car’s own sensors.

‘The method entails estimating the difference in the speeds of the drive shaft and freely rotating axles in various driving situations, which enables deduction of the level of friction’, said senior scientist Kimmo Erkkilä in a statement.

The system is capable of determining the iciness of a road on the basis of a drive of a few kilometres.

The information is then passed on to the driver, before changes in road conditions are noticed.

After this, observations collected from all cars and the related co-ordinates are transmitted wirelessly to a background system, which maintains a real-time ice map and generates a log of the road conditions.

For each car that joins the system, the background system produces and transmits an individual data package on road conditions, allowing drivers to prepare in advance for slippery stretches of road.

Various vehicle terminal devices can be used to join the system, as long as they have sufficient capacity to carry out the slipperiness detection calculations, have a link to the vehicle’s data bus, are equipped with a location tracking system and are able to connect to the background system.

Information on the level of black ice can be transmitted to drivers by means of warning lights, voice signals, text or symbols, according to the possibilities offered by the terminal device. As well as through vehicle terminal devices, this information can be utilised by other communication channels including smartphones, the national media, weather forecasts or roadside signs.

At present, the system has been used in heavy lorries, but it is also directly compatible with other heavy vehicles.

Using the current method, passenger cars can also make use of the slipperiness data produced by the system. In the future, the system can be expanded to make use of observations collected from passenger cars.

The method’s functionality has been tested in the field and VTT says that negotiations to commercialise the system are under way with EC-Tools.