The Minnesota Department of Transportation is testing technology in southern Minnesota that activates digital highway signs that warn motorists on the road that a slow-moving vehicle is ahead.

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According to a press release from MnDOT, the goal is to improve highway safety by providing motorists information when they are likely to be approaching a state maintenance vehicle. A digital sign message will warn drivers that they will be approaching slow-moving MnDOT vehicles.

Ten MnDOT snowplows on I-35 from Iowa to Northfield were outfitted with technology to activate digital message signs as they pass. During snow events, signs notify drivers: “Snowplow ahead, use caution.” During non-snow conditions, the message alerts: “Maintenance vehicle ahead, use caution.” The message stays activated for several minutes after the MnDOT vehicles pass.

 

This technology can be used at other times of the year than just winter, too, according to MnDOT the warning signs can also be used during maintenance work when crews are repairing high-tension cable median guard or striping roads.

“Alerting motorists that they’re approaching a slow-moving snowplow can improve safety for our operators and motorists,” said Ron Heim, MnDOT maintenance supervisor in Owatonna. “MnDOT is focused on safety and we think this use of technology will help everyone on the road.”

Data from past years shows that many crashes involving snowplows were rear-end collisions when motorists strike the back of the snowplow, and a warning system could reduce and prevent these types of crashes in the future. The MnDOT snowplows and maintenance vehicles use already existing automatic location technology and the signs are equipped to receive the signal that triggers the message when they travel near the sign.

According to the release, MnDOT will evaluate the information and the technology to determine whether it can be used in other operations.

This work builds off previous research by leveraging existing technology, which automatically updates travelers, improving reliability. This technology holds the possibility of exploring future ways to connect with motorists.

“Our trucks are already providing data, so we’re able to build off of that and test this concept,” said Jed Falgren, MnDOT state director for Transportation System Management and Operations. “We can improve safety and this an important test that should show us what can come next.”

You can find more information on the technology here.

 

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