AI to tackle icy roads

Norway is pioneering road safety and sustainability with AI

Happy Easter

Here is the latest edition of the Practical AI newsletter.

Today the newsletter is both different and shorter than usual, as I am on a long road trip from the south of Europe to the north.

Thus I found it fitting to share some technological AI advances being tested in my home country of Norway.

The road authority has started a project using AI technology to make the winter roads safer while at the same time doing so sustainably.

AI for road safety and sustainability in Norway

In Norway, my home country, we say, "We have a lot of weather.”

It may only be a country of about 5 million people, but it is thinly stretched and ends up “where Santa Claus lives” (the north pole).

We have a lot of mountains and lots of snow in the winter.

It is a challenging task to keep the Norwegian roads in good condition and safe to drive on during the winter.

One way to keep the road clear (not only in Norway) is to use salt to melt away the snow/ice.

Salt means freezing point depression, which again implies that road salt lowers the freezing temperature of the water. When you sprinkle salt directly on icy roads, it melts the ice and makes them safer to drive on (it only works until a certain temperature).

However, the environment is suffering from all this salt.

Road salt can contaminate drinking water, kill or endanger wildlife, increase soil erosion, and damage property.

Thus, road salt is always a balance between road safety and considerations of the environment.

At the end of 2022, the Norwegian road authorities started a project stretching 3 winters (including this one). They are utilizing AI on the road cleaning and salting trucks to analyzing the roads and salt accordingly.

Using various lasers, lidar technology, advanced cameras, and AI technology on the trucks, the road conditions are analyzed in real-time, and salt is applied and adjusted accordingly.

The cameras and lasers analyze the road 50 meters/164 feet in front of the truck and then apply the correct amount of salt once it reaches that spot.

I don’t have many details about the technology itself, but I assume they are using similar technology installed in self-driving trucks, which I wrote about in a previous issue (read the story here).

When you couple this AI technology with advanced weather data, magic happens.

I love the idea of using AI in this way.

Not only does this mean safer roads - less ice - when we inevitably drive on these mountain roads (or in the city, for that matter), but it also stresses nature less.

With advanced weather data and real-time data from the trucks uploaded to the cloud, the road authorities drive less, leading to less fuel consumption and less emission.

The project uses the AHEAD technology from the Swedish company Klimator AB to analyze the weather conditions 50 meters ahead (clever naming right there).

Test results in Sweden with the AHEAD technology show salt reduction between 20% and 30%.

The Norwegian project is the first of its kind in the world.

AI and smart winter maintenance can significantly benefit the environment while maintaining road safety for those traveling on winter roads.

To me, this is an excellent example of the good AI can do for society.

That’s all for today!

Happy Easter to those of you who celebrate this holiday.


If you have any questions about AI or any feedback, just hit reply or tweet me @thomassorheim 

AI’ll be back!


Why did the Norwegian dad always carry a map?




He didn't want to get lost in Scandina-vague-ia!

This is not the end. It is where the fun begins!


or to participate.