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MDOT sensor technology research makes national news

Contact: Jeff Cranson, MDOT Director of Communications,
Agency: Transportation

Fast Facts:
- Footage shot in Michigan about MDOT's Integrated Mobile Observations (IMO) research was aired today (Jan. 22) on CBS This Morning.
- Michigan is one of only three states conducting the federally funded IMO research to use sensor technology to measure road and weather conditions and prioritize winter maintenance.
- The research involves outfitting fleet vehicles with sensors to collect atmospheric condition data and data about the state of the pavement condition from a smartphone mounted on the vehicle's dashboard as it travels down the road.
- Data collected from MDOT fleet vehicles is sent every five minutes to a secure server at the University of Michigan Transportation Research Institute (UMTRI) and then on to the National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR) in Colorado.
- NCAR will use the data to explore and develop applications to provide near real-time advisory warnings for motorists and provide snowplow drivers with improved weather forecasts and road treatment applications.

January 22, 2014 -- In a program airing today, CBS This Morning highlighted Michigan Department of Transportation (MDOT) research into more efficient methods to improve winter travel conditions. CBS had sent a crew to Michigan on Jan. 15 to interview an MDOT engineer and shoot footage of some of the 60 fleet vehicles MDOT is using to conduct sensor technology research along the I-94 corridor in nine Michigan counties. The footage and interviews became part of a segment focusing on three states, Minnesota, Nevada and Michigan, testing high-tech tools to improve road conditions related to winter weather and potentially save more lives.

MDOT's Integrated Mobile Observations (IMO) research is being conducted by the Federal Highway Administration Roadway Weather Management Program, MDOT, and the University of Michigan Transportation Research Institute (UMTRI). The project involves collecting data from 60 fleet vehicles traveling on portions of I-94 on a regular basis, including 20 snowplows and 11 light vehicles on the southwest portion of I-94 in Berrien, Van Buren, Kalamazoo, and Calhoun counties; 15 light fleet vehicles on the middle portion of I-94 in Jackson and Washtenaw counties; and 14 light fleet vehicles on the southwest portion of I-94 in Wayne, Macomb, and St. Clair counties.

"This technology has the very real potential to make winter driving safer and winter road maintenance more efficient and effective," said State Transportation Director Kirk T. Steudle. "Since the CBS This Morning segment was picked up by local affiliates across Michigan today, many more Michigan residents are now aware of MDOT's role in national transportation research."

CBS called the IMO research a "new weapon for tracking ice and snow-covered roads." IMO Project Manager Steve Cook emphasized the research is being done to develop technology that will prioritize winter maintenance to improve safety, save money and have less of an impact on the environment by reducing the amounts of salt and chemicals being used to clear roads.

"Information from these vehicles is important in three ways," said Cook. "The data will allow us to provide better forecasts and information for the operators who are managing the storm, make roads safer for drivers, and help protect the environment."

MDOT says: Drive like you want to make it home tonight.

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