Windshield wipers more accurate than weather radar for monitoring rainfall: Page 2 of 3

February 05, 2019 //By Stephen Mraz
Windshield wipers more accurate than weather radar for monitoring rainfall
Engineers at the University of Michigan have added some serious tech to automotive windshield wipers, building a mobile network more accurate than weather radar at tracking and monitoring local rainfalls.

“Radar has a spatial resolution of a quarter of a mile and a temporal resolution of 15 minutes,” says Ram Vasudevan, another UM engineering professor. “In contrast, wipers have spatial resolutions of a few feet and temporal resolutions of a few seconds, which can make a huge difference in predicting flash flooding.”

Earlier this year, the European Academy of Sciences reported the number of floods and extreme rainfall events increased by more than 50% this decade and happen four times more often than they did in 1980.

“Because of the sparseness of radar and rain gauge data, we don’t have enough information about where or when it is raining,” Vasudevan explains. “If you have fine-grain predictions of where there is flooding, you can efficiently and effectively control water networks to prevent all sorts of dangerous chemicals from contaminating our water supply due to runoff.”

Analysis of a single vehicle trip occurring 21:46 to 22:26 on Aug. 11, 2014. The top two panels show video footage during the trip’s rainy (left) and dry (right) segments. The bottom left panel maps the vehicle’s trip, with wiper intensity indicated by color. A radar overlay shows average rainfall intensity over the 40-minute period. Blue circles represent the gauges nearest to the vehicle path. The two bottom right panels show precipitation intensity as estimated by radar and gage measurements (center), and the 1 min. average wiper intensity (bottom). (Courtesy: Scientific Reports)

Creating a blanket of sensors across a city for street-level data on rain events would be costly. But using connected vehicles taps a resource that can be easily put in place now and will only grow larger in the future as more cars are added into the IoT.

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