Carnegie Mellon University

Autonomous snowplow of the National Robotics Engineering Center (NREC).

July 10, 2015

NREC Augmented Reality will help guide snowplow operators

Two-year Project Funded by Federal Highway Administration 

Researchers at the National Robotics Engineering Center are developing an augmented reality system to visually guide snowplow operators when deep snow or adverse weather makes it difficult to avoid obstacles, stay on the road, or otherwise operate safely. 

The two-year project is headed by Herman Herman, NREC director, and Alonzo Kelly, a Carnegie Mellon University professor of robotics and is sponsored by the Federal Highway Administration. 

The goal is to develop a heads-up display that provides a visual overlay of the road ahead, showing the operator where the road boundaries are and where obstacles may be hidden by thick or blowing snow. 

Researchers will map information about roads and obstacles, along with surrounding landmarks in order to augment GPS satellite information. They also will outfit plowing vehicles with radar, lidar and thermal cameras to measure the location and orientation of the vehicle with fewer errors than possible with a pure GPS system. A heads-up, semi-transparent display will be used together with an eye-tracking sensor to align the road and obstacle information with what the operator is seeing. 

Information also will be shared in real-time between plows to ensure that every vehicle is operating with the latest information. 

The researchers will work with FHWA, local snowplow operators and equipment manufacturers to determine the best approach and how best to deploy such a system. They will deliver a functional prototype of the system to the FHWA.