The Iowa Department of Transportation is giving motorists a front-seat view with cameras mounted on the dash of snowplows. John Hart in the DOT maintenance office says they tested the project in central Iowa and decided it provides some good data. “We started off in December with about seven trucks, we just went to 100 trucks recently and not we are moving out to some other districts in the state,” Hart says.
They use an i-Phone 4-s provided at no cost by the carrier with the purchase of a data plan. “You know a picture is worth a thousand words and kind of shows what’s going on. It enhances a driver’s ability to understand what the conditions are and hopefully their safety,” Hart says. “It allows us also to see how the storm is progressing and how our treatment is working on the road and make better use of our resources from that perspective.”
The DOT has had several stationary cameras in place along roadways for years. Hart says the mobile pictures add much more information. “It gives us that visibility and that actual pavement or roadway condition — more so than some of those existing stationary cameras can,” he explains. “So, it really enhances what we’ve got there and allows us to see those road conditions, it allows us to see what our operators are experiencing while they are out there working.”
The DOT has stressed the importance of drivers not being distracted by talking and texting while driving — and Hart says you don’t have to worry about snowplow drivers trying to shoot pictures while steering the large orange trucks down the snowy highway. “The whole thing is self contained within the i-Phone. So prior to that truck moving at all, they turn on that app that we wrote at the DOT, and it’s on the phone and it automates everything,” Hart says.
He encourages drivers to check out the photos to see road conditions for themselves before deciding to head out into a storm. You can connect to the main DOT webpage at: www.iowadot.gov and then click on the blue button in the middle and once you do that, go to “Winter Driving.” You then click on the snowplow map and find the pictures on the snowplow location map.
Pictures from the snowplow cameras are updated every 30 minutes. The DOT hopes to have the camera coverage over most of the state by next winter.