Research Highlight: Visibility Detection Systems

Dr. Mohamed Abdel-Aty at the University of Central Florida is working on a project for the Florida Department of Transportation called "Synthesis of Visibility Detection Systems."

Whatever the road surface or condition, visibility is a critical component of driving.  Potential impediments to visibility include fog, heavy rain, snow, smoke, dust or haze. Visibility detection and warning systems counteract the effects of poor visibility by providing both real-time, automated detection and appropriate responses. The systems inform drivers of present conditions and lower the speed limits to match condition that is limiting visibility

The objective of this project is to provide a synthesis of visibility detection systems and traffic control techniques that are developed and/or implemented in the U.S. and around the world. This report provides an overview of the best practices of fixed visibility systems at areas of recurrent dense fog. It also looks at mobile systems for seasonal visibility reduction for areas of predicted seasonal fog or smoke from wildfires. Ongoing research  into the  development of  new camera-based visibility detection systems is also discussed.

Visibility crashes hot spots in Florida


In addition, a preliminary analysis of fog/smoke (FS) crashes in Florida is provided in this report.  This includes a detailed two-way analysis capturing interactions between various factors and fog and/or smoke-related crashes To identify and prioritize areas for treatment, an update of the statewide map with increased granularity of reduced visibility related crashes is generated.

The visibility detection systems can help to mitigate the increased hazard of limited-visibility, however such systems are not widely implemented and many locations with no systems are experiencing a considerable number of fatal crashes due to a reduction in visibility caused by fog and inclement weather. The results from this research and an earlier FDOT project confirmed the importance of collecting real-time weather data as a way to reduce risk on highways.

The project encouraged FDOT to discuss with UCF researchers the need to develop low-cost systems to be used for visibility detection as well as visibility prediction based on atmospheric conditions. UCF is attempting to secure funding from FDOT and will apply for matching funds from the National Center for Productivity and Management to develop such system. The benefits will extend beyond Florida to the southeastern United States and beyond. Many states, including Georgia and Texas, experienced multi vehicles pile-ups on their highways recently caused by fog conditions.


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