TORONTO - A 50-mile stretch of snow-plagued Minnesota highway will provide the test for a new driving aid to combat the drifting snow phenomenon called whiteout.
A stripe of magnetic tape next to the traditional yellow center line of the road will assist with vehicle guidance drifting snow conditions, or whiteout.
The new development from 3M Co. will let vehicles equipped with a special sensor 'read' the road center and to avoid veering off the road or into oncoming traffic.
Minnesota's study of the new tape and other smart-road systems is one of four major federal grant projects announced last month in Toronto by U.S. Secretary of Transportation Secretary Rodney Slater at the sixth World Congress on Intelligent Transport Systems in Toronto last month.
Marthand Nookala, assistant division director for the Minnesota Department of Transportation, said the study of the new tape initially will involve four snowplows, one ambulance and one police car. The vehicles all need to navigate state Highway 7 in bad weather, particularly when snow is blowing and drifting, and will be able to test the system in extreme conditions.
'If it is successful for an enforcement vehicle, then it should ultimately be satisfactory for highway users, too,' Nookala said in a presentation at the ITS event.
Sensors can pick up the stripe at distances of about 16 to 20 inches. When a vehicle veers away from the stripe, a warning tone sounds and a steering arrow appears in an instrument panel readout near the driver. The arrows will instruct the driver to go right or left to find the road center again.
If the magnetic stripe is not found quickly, a second warning sounds, telling the driver to stop.
'If there's no tape, you'd better pay attention - you're not on the road,' Nookala explained.