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Intelligent Transportation Systems and Winter Operations In Japan
FHWA International Technology Exchange Programs

September 2003


Click on a link below to go to a specific topic in this chapter:
Scan Objectives
Scan Team Methodology
Team Composition and Sponsoring Agencies




Several U.S. State departments of transportation (DOTs), some county DOTs, and the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) are involved in the development and field evaluation of advanced systems directed at enhancing winter operations. This body of work is part of State and national efforts to improve the efficiency and effectiveness of snow- and ice-control operations and to better inform motorists of wintertime driving conditions. The advanced systems under investigation include winter maintenance equipment with enhanced sensors and control devices, information systems for measuring and communicating winter road conditions, higher-resolution winter weather forecasting tools, winter maintenance decision support systems, and improved ways of alerting motorists to wintertime driving conditions and educating them on the potential dangers of driving during winter weather. Work is under way in the United States to integrate some of these advances with other aspects of transportation operations and maintenance as part of the development of intelligent transportation systems (ITS).

Research indicates that Japan and several European countries likewise are making significant advances in winter road operations, particularly in the areas of motorist information and system integration. For several years, Japanese and European transportation officials have used advanced road condition measuring equipment and data to improve their management of snow- and ice-control operations and to advise motorists of hazardous winter road conditions. For instance, various types of sensors are being developed and, in some cases, deployed on snow- and ice-control equipment to determine the freezing point of roadway moisture, road surface conditions, and roadway obstacles during poor visibility conditions. In addition, work is under way to standardize road weather information for use in advanced traffic management and traveler information systems.

Little has been written or published about the technical progress in these areas. Likewise, no details are available on equipment or information system design, testing, and evaluation. A few details are available on the processes used to educate the Japanese motoring public on how to drive on snow- and ice-covered roads.
It was decided that a scanning study of Japan was necessary to help the U.S. transportation community understand more fully the Japanese advances in the area of ITS and winter operations. It was further decided that the scanning team would participate in the Standing International Road Weather Commission (SIRWEC) and Permanent International Association of Road Congresses (PIARC) Conferences in Sapporo, Japan, in connection with the scan visits with Japanese agencies and organizations in Hokkaido, Japan. The panel attended the two conferences from January 26 to 31, 2002, and made scanning study visits from February 1 to 7, 2002.

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The scanning study's objectives were twofold. The first was to review and document advanced technologies, techniques, and procedures used in the host country for winter operations and the implementation of those advances within Japan's ITS architecture. The second objective was to evaluate those significant advances for potential application in the United States.

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The technology scanning team met before the scanning trip to develop a set of amplifying questions and to plan its itinerary around seven topics of interest. Five of these were associated with winter operations and two were associated with motorist information and education. Topics included the following:

A set of amplifying questions was developed for each topic area. These questions are listed in Appendix A. The questions were forwarded to Japanese road authorities, research agencies, and weather agencies in Hokkaido, Japan, before the trip. Portions of the amplifying questions were sent also to selected European governmental agencies that were sending delegates to the technical conferences.

The amplifying questions provided the Japanese agencies in Hokkaido with an understanding of the topics of interest to the team and enabled the Japanese to plan their presentations and site visits accordingly. The team met with representatives of four major Japanese road authorities in Hokkaido, the Civil Engineering Research Institute of Hokkaido, the Hokkaido University, private sector organizations, and two private weather agencies involved in ITS and winter operations management. The team also had in-depth technical discussions on advanced technologies with European counterparts at the SIRWEC and PIARC Conferences in Sapporo, Japan.

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The following were members of the team:

Biographical information on team members is in Appendix B.

FHWA, through its International Technology Exchange Program, AASHTO, and the National Cooperative Highway Research Program, through its Panel 20-36, jointly sponsored the Intelligent Transportation Systems and Winter Operations in Japan Scanning Study.

The team members shared their experience, expertise, and opinions among themselves and with the hosts. As a result of these exchanges, excellent formal presentations, and informative site visits, the team developed general observations and key findings relating to intelligent transportation systems and winter operations in Japan and elsewhere. The team also developed recommendations and implementation plans for efforts that may have potential application in the United States.

The technical information gathered during the study is included in this report. Chapter Two on General Observations covers information about the agencies visited and conferences attended that may be of interest to the highway community engaged in intelligent transportation systems and winter operations. Chapter Three on Key Findings summarizes findings applicable to needs in the United States. Chapter Four on Recommendations covers an extensive list of areas of potential development. Chapter Five on Implementation Plans provides a brief description of plans developed for six applications. Conclusions are discussed in Chapter Six and supporting information is included in the appendices.

Team members met before the trip and during the course of their travels. In addition, a formal meeting at the end of the trip and subsequent correspondence added further refinements to the material in this report.

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