In 2015 and 2016, the Minnesota Department of Transportation (MnDOT) installed network video dash- and ceiling-mounted cameras on 226 snowplows, approximately one-quarter of MnDOT’s total snowplow fleet. The cameras were integrated with the onboard mobile data computer/automated vehicle location (MDC/AVL) equipment and automatically captured snapshots of road conditions during plowing. Images were sent to MnDOT’s server and then imported in near-real-time to the MnDOT 511 website and MnDOT mobile app for use by the traveling public.
The snowplow camera images provided significant benefit to MnDOT staff and the traveling public, and the efforts and expense spent in technical implementation were justified by the project outcomes. It is recommended to install AVL cameras on additional snowplows in the state fleet as deemed necessary by district management and to continue to support the display of snowplow images on MnDOT’s 511 system.
Following are the significant recommendations drawn from the project and the people surveyed and interviewed:
- Perform outreach efforts to clearly communicate benefits to achieve broad buy-in from snowplow drivers. Provide training and follow-up instruction on use of the camera’s features to encourage drivers to use the manual snapshot and video features.
- Address drivers’ concerns about privacy directly (i.e., “Big Brother is watching”) and understand that these concerns have lessened over time. Supervisors should be advised not to react too quickly to these concerns.
- Address concern about in-cab distraction issues by adjusting the system configuration or hardware. This might include making dash camera screens dimmable at the driver’s option, or placing screens and cameras out of critical sightlines.