County trials new tech to stay ahead in winter roads maintenance

This story was published 21 September 2022

State-of-the-art technology is due to be employed to monitor North Yorkshire’s vast network of roads throughout the winter months to help ensure routes can be kept open during severe weather.

8 people stood in front of a gritter

Artificial intelligence, computer modelling and live data as well as cutting-edge sensors to check road surface temperatures and moisture levels will be used to closely monitor thousands of miles of roads.

Our highways team has already invested in equipment to provide it with the most up-to-date weather information. The last tranche of investment was more than £500,000.

Alongside up-to-the-minute weather forecasts, our network of 27 weather stations at key locations across England’s largest county provide real-time information to help us make accurate, informed decisions about when and where to grit roads.

The stations include solar-powered cameras that relay live images of road conditions to our website, where they are viewed hundreds of thousands of times each winter to help people plan their journeys.

Now, we are building on a working relationship of more than 20 years with Vaisala, a global leader in weather, environmental, and industrial measurements, to improve routine and winter monitoring of our network of 5,800 miles of road.

North Yorkshire has this year begun using Vaisala’s artificial intelligence technology, and continues to work closely with the company as its systems and technology evolve. As a result, thorough surveys of the condition of the road network can be undertaken more quickly.

As highways officers drive the network, the video technology automatically surveys the roads and identifies defects. It processes the data within a few hours. This gives the highways team a visual snapshot of the whole network, capturing useful data about the road condition and road signs very quickly and enabling them to target resources most efficiently.

We are also trialling Vaisala Wx Horizon, a system that uses real-time weather information, historic weather and road condition data alongside computer modelling to help identify required winter treatments.

Finally, we are investigating Internet of Things sensors to supplement existing weather stations to give more accurate data at an increasing number of locations on the highways network. These sensors feedback on details such as road surface temperatures and moisture levels.

Executive member for highways and transportation, Cllr Keane Duncan, said: “North Yorkshire’s extensive highways network, which includes many rural roads, is vital to the everyday lives of the county’s residents, its businesses, tourism industry and wider economic prosperity.

“That’s why we have a strong track record in putting ourselves at the forefront of technological advances that enable us to make quick, well-informed decisions to help to keep our roads open and people on the move during winter weather.

“These latest developments with Vaisala continue that long-standing approach and demonstrate our commitment to ongoing improvement to enable our dedicated teams to support residents, businesses and visitors across the county.”

Jarkko Sairanen, Vaisala’s executive vice president for weather and the environment, said: “I am convinced the county and its people will benefit from the latest advances in mobile and Internet of Things technologies to help keep the road network safe and accessible, while minimising the cost and carbon footprint of efficient winter maintenance operations.”