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Windshield wipers can collect rainfall data to prevent flash-flooding

Web Desk: A car’s windshield wipers can collect rainfall data to prevent flash-flooding.

According to a research conducted by Michigan University, tracking windshield wiper activity can provide faster, more accurate rainfall data than radar and rain gauge systems currently in place.

The research relayed that engineers tracked rainfall by using wipers and matched that information with video from on-board cameras to document rainfall. They collected data from a set of 70 cars outfitted with sensors in windshield wipers and dashboard cameras.

It is highly probable for a community armed with that real-time data to prevent flash-flooding or sewage overflows, which represent a rising threat to property, infrastructure and the environment.“These vehicles offer us a way to get rainfall information at resolutions we’d not seen before,” said Branko Kerkez, an assistant professor of civil and environmental engineering. “It’s more precise than radar, and allows us fills gaps left by existing rain gage networks.”

Kerkez added that, “Our best warnings for flood conditions come from the combination of radar tracking from satellites and rain gauges spread over a wide geographic area. Both have poor spatial resolution, meaning they lack the ability to capture what’s happening at street-level.”

Ram Vasudevan, an assistant professor of mechanical engineering went on to say that, “Radar has a spatial resolution of a quarter of a mile and a temporal resolution of 15 minutes. Wipers in contrast have a spatial resolution of a few feet and a temporal resolution of a few seconds which can make a huge difference when it comes 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 percent 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 rain is occurring or when it’s occurring to reduce the consequences of flooding,” Vasudevan added. “If you have fine-grain predictions of where flooding occurs, you can control water networks efficiently and effectively to prevent all sorts of dangerous chemicals from appearing inside our water supply due to runoff.”

Kerkez and Vasudevan relayed that their research represents the first step in creating a smart infrastructure system that is fed by and responds to data as it is collected from vehicles on the road.

“One day, when everything is connected, we’re going to see the benefits of this data collection at a system scale,” Kerkez concluded. “Right now, we’ve made connections between cars and water, but there will surely be more examples of data sharing between interconnected infrastructure systems.”