U.S. Department of Transportation
Federal Highway Administration
1200 New Jersey Avenue, SE
Washington, DC 20590

Skip to content
Facebook iconYouTube iconTwitter iconFlickr iconLinkedInInstagram

Office of International Programs

FHWA Home / Office of International Programs

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:
Key Findings
Winter Maintenance Equipment
Advanced Maintenance Equipment
Measuring and Communicating Winter Road Conditions
Coordinated Use of Weather Forecast Data
Use of Winter Maintenance Decision Support Systems
Performance Evaluation of Winter Maintenance Operations
Winter Traveler Information
Driver Education for Winter Conditions



The Japanese organizations the scanning team visited were thorough in their preparations for the team's visit and generous in sharing their experiences and advances. The visits with European researchers also yielded valuable information. Based on these discussions, the team documented many key findings. These findings are those that have potential applicability to U.S. needs in ITS and winter operations. The findings are presented in five topic areas associated with winter maintenance operations, followed by two topic areas associated with motorist information and education.

Back to topic list


Advanced winter maintenance equipment continues to be developed and evaluated in Japan and Europe. Some equipment has advanced to the implementation stage. While several projects to evaluate winter maintenance equipment are under way in the United States, no agency has taken the lead in supporting and encouraging research on equipment as in other countries. Snow- and ice-control equipment sensors used in Japan and various European countries generally are available and used in the United States (i.e., automated controls, radar, GPS, etc.). Advanced snow- and ice-control equipment and sensors under evaluation in Japan and Europe fall into one of the three categories described below.

Back to topic list


Two advances of note are in this category:

Automated Vehicle Location and Navigation Systems

Three advances of note are in this category:

Vehicle-Mounted Performance-Monitoring Systems

Three advances of note are in this category:

Other key findings in this topic include the following:

Back to topic list


Japan relies heavily on frequent visual observations of winter road conditions by patrols to verify conditions detected by an extensive road weather information systems (RWIS) sensor network. Data coming from roadway and atmospheric sensors in Japan are used as secondary information in decisions on winter maintenance operations, traffic control, chemical application treatments, and information disseminated to the public. Other key findings in this topic area include the following:

Back to topic list


Road weather data in many countries are collected centrally and combined with meteorological forecast data to provide guidance to local road maintenance and traffic control authorities. Many European countries have not yet achieved full data sharing between their RWIS sites and their national meteorological agencies but they are working toward that end. In Japan, road weather data are provided only to local private meteorological forecast companies. Also, Japan has no direct sharing of road weather condition information with other transportation modes or with agencies outside the highway agency's jurisdiction. Outside agencies, however, can obtain road weather information via the Internet or get e-mails by special request. More key findings in this topic area include the following:

Back to topic list


In the United States, the term maintenance decision support system (MDSS) is used to describe a management system designed to gather, assemble, and organize information on highway conditions, winter storm conditions, and winter maintenance resources to help maintenance engineers and supervisors make effective decisions on staffing, equipment, and chemical use in supporting winter maintenance operations. Both European countries and Japan are developing MDSS, portions of which are undergoing field-testing and evaluation in preparation for implementation. The U.S. contact with foreign efforts is slight, and efforts by the United States and other countries to develop MDSS would be enhanced by closer contact. More specific findings in this area are highlighted below:

Back to topic list


Many European countries are moving toward privatization of winter maintenance operations. The relationships between the national agencies and contractors appear to be more partnerships than sponsor-client relationships. The contractual relationships force a clear definition of wintertime service levels expected for the various road systems and lead to a method of evaluating performance of winter maintenance operations. These methods of performance evaluation can be valuable to winter maintenance organizations even if European countries do not privatize their operations.

The United States appears to have higher winter maintenance service standards and expectations for given highway classifications than many foreign countries. This is true from the perspective of both the road maintenance agency and the driving public. More specific findings in this area are highlighted below:

Back to topic list


Considerable effort has been made in Hokkaido to provide wintertime travelers with information on weather and driving conditions. This information is available by various means both before and during travel through an extensive advanced traveler information system (ATIS). Winter road conditions are available through hardware and wireless access to various Internet Web sites via PCs and I-mode (Internet-accessible) cellular phones. The development of RWML has enabled road weather information to be distributed over the Internet. Standardization of RWML sensor data and road weather information provided to the public is under development in Japan as part of its ITS applications. Other specific key findings include the following:

Back to topic list


Driver education is taken seriously in Japan and is considered more of a social responsibility than in the United States. Special driver programs are offered in Hokkaido for wintertime driving conditions. A winter condition driving course is being developed in Hokkaido for students enrolled in driver training during milder times of the year. Through its law enforcement branch, the Prefecture Government develops the training content and bears the cost for publicly offered driver education courses. The Prefecture Traffic Safety Association and the Japan Automobile Federation provide the instructors. Both agencies are the primary sources for publicly available driver education. Private and professional driver education programs also exist. Other positive attributes of driver education in Japan include the following:

Back to topic list

Page last modified on November 7, 2014
Federal Highway Administration | 1200 New Jersey Avenue, SE | Washington, DC 20590 | 202-366-4000