Michigan Department of Transportation (MDOT) Weather Responsive Traveler Information (Wx-TINFO) System Implementation Project
Michigan Department of Transportation (MDOT) was looking for a fully comprehensive and automated system to provide desired road weather advisories, alerts, and messages to those traveling Michigan’s transportation infrastructure. The previous situation within MDOT comprised several fully functional, yet disparate systems for capturing data for and/or relaying information to the traveling public. The Weather Responsive Traveler Information (Wx-TINFO) project presented the opportunity to tie these systems together, offering enhanced functionality and providing benefits by offering automated messages for weather-related events. The MDOT Wx-TINFO system brings together near real-time weather and environmental information collected from numerous fixed and mobile data sources, including:
- Integrated Mobile Observations (IMO)
- Environmental Sensor Stations (ESS)
- Advanced Applications of Connected Vehicle Data Use Analysis and Processing (DUAP)
- Vehicle-based Information and Data Acquisition System (VIDAS)
- National Weather Service (NWS).
Within the Wx-TINFO system, MDOT’s Data Use Analysis and Processing (DUAP) system processes the weather data and provides automated weather alerts and Dynamic Message Signs (DMS) message recommendations to Transportation Operations Center (TOC) Operators. TOC Operations staff then push out traffic information to the traveling public through the Advanced Traffic Management System (ATMS) via DMS and Mi Drive (the MDOT traveler information website).
The initial implementation of the Wx-TINFO system was a complex undertaking, with the following challenges experienced and addressed by the team.
- The decision tree logic and thresholds used to define the operation of the system was particularly complex—especially considering the various data inputs and time components. Before deployment, the team was able to test the functionality of Wx-TINFO. The team monitored weather and associated alerts to verify the weather events were reported correctly. Based on the system requirements, the team used DUAP to verify the functionality of the system changes by inspecting closed-circuit television images, NWS radar and observations, and RWIS observations. Analyzing the weather-related data assured the quality of the weather event data that were sent to ATMS.
- The application was tested for two months by the TOC staff, and their feedback was used to adjust the application. Frequent feedback from TOC Operators allowed developers to incorporate modifications quickly to allow comparisons of changes within the same winter season. Some modifications included:
- Adjusting the merging of neighboring winter weather events
- Tuning algorithm thresholds to adjust the level of which events were reported
- Modifying algorithms to report events more accurately
- Having SMEs involved in all phases of the project was integral to meeting the requirements of the system and ensuring usability for the operators when it was deployed. Frequent MDOT training webinars were attended by the Lead Operators before and after deploying system changes to ensure those changes were understood and met MDOT’s needs.
- Modifications to the DUAP (Wx-TINFO) system allowed the TOC Operators to view detailed information concerning the weather events being reported by DUAP through ATMS. This provided verification of the weather alerts prior to promoting them to the affected DMSs.
- The TOC Operator survey was an important piece of feedback. The opinions were mixed, which is not unexpected since the Operators were learning and getting comfortable with a new system in the middle of winter operations. The feedback from the survey identified several high priority items that were quickly revised in the Wx-TINFO system. Other items may be considered for future enhancements to the system.
Much was learned during this initial implementation, and MDOT plans to incorporate system enhancements to further refine and expand the system.