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Center for Transportation Studies

Snow Rendering for Interactive Snowplow Simulation - Supporting Safety in Snowplow Design

Peter Willemsen
January 2013
Report no. CTS 13-02


During a snowfall, following a snowplow can be extremely dangerous. This danger comes from the human visual system's inability to accurately perceive the speed and motion of the snowplow, often resulting in rear-end collisions. For this project, the researchers' goal is to use their understanding of how the human visual system processes optical motion under the conditions created by blowing snow to create a simulation framework that could be used to test emergency lighting configurations that reduce rear-end collisions with snowplows. Reaction times for detecting the motion of the snowplow will be measured empirically for a variety of color set-ups on a simulated snowplow that slows down while driving on a virtual road with curves and hills. Current efforts have implemented a blowing snow model that will eventually be integrated into a real-time driving simulation environment. Concurrently, a simulated driving environment has been developed that will serve as the basis for testing the effects of color and lighting alternatives on snowplows. In initial pilot experiments, the simulated driving environment has been effective at testing subject reaction times for following a snowplow through high luminance contrast (normal daylight driving) and low luminance contrast (daylight fog) conditions. The results of this work will move the researchers closer to determining optimal color and lighting configurations on actual snowplows.

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Sponsored by: ITS Institute (RITA)