Evaluation of Radar for Snowplows: Initial Results


Alec Gorjestani, Tanh Pham, Sundeep Bajikar, Max Donath

April 1998

Report no. MnDOT 1999-09

Heavy or blowing snow often causes poor visibility for snowplows. This report presents the results of a one-year preliminary study to evaluate the performance of an off-the-shelf radar unit for improved detection of objects under snow and blizzard conditions. Researchers developed a geometrical computer model of radar range and closure rate measurement to provide a baseline for comparison with experimental results. They varied parameters such as radar orientation, location, and differential vehicle speed to determine their effect on radar performance. The radar's accuracy improves as the speed differential between vehicles increases, according to the research findings. Furthermore, slight deviations in orientation and location do not seem to greatly influence the radar's ability to detect other vehicles. The radar also was tested under falling snow conditions. The radar effectively detected target vehicles under 'light' and 'moderate' snow conditions with visibility down to less than one half mile. However, the very small number of snow events in the winter of 1997-98 limits the ability to make conclusions about the radar's performance under such conditions. Since the study began, commercially available radar technology has improved significantly, and researchers recommend testing the improved radar units in the future.

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