Cars could provide real-time weather forecasts

January 27, 2014
Photo: Snowy satellite image of Colorado(Photo: NASA Earth Observatory)
Does this tell you what I-70 looks like?  A new technology could give you the real truth about each mile of the highway.
And who would provide this detailed forecast?  Cars themselves.
Boulder startup WeatherCloud offers such technology in Ground Truth, a system that involves fitting cars with simple sensors that can record information about rainfall, temperature, tire grip, ice, snowpack and a host of other variables. The sensors would be installed on car tires, license plates and windshields.
The notion: as the sensor-equipped cars travel along the Colorado roads, weather and road data is transmitted into the cloud where meteorologists would compare against their models to produce real-time weather forecasts for each mile of road in Colorado.

“You’ll leave Boulder and you’ll know that in 90 minutes it is going to be icy on the Silverthorne grade on the way to Vail,” WeatherCloud CEO Duer Reeves says. “Maybe you leave earlier or you maybe you’ll leave later—you are going to be able to plan for that kind of thing better.”

Reeves hopes drivers will be able to access the improved forecasts by next winter using a smartphone app, but first the company must equip enough cars in Colorado with sensors to be able to supply the detailed weather reports.

For Reeves, the vision doesn’t stop with the weather.

“Automobiles are in the environment all the time so they could measure anything in the environment that we want to understand,” Reeves says.

He envisions that cars could be used to detect trace gases in the air, such as those coming from gas wells or oil refineries, and such information could help monitor and regulate air quality, for example.

Ultimately, Reeves sees this technology as bringing us one step closer to the holy grail of transport: the self-driving car.  

“Eventually, we are going to have self-driving cars,” Reeves says. “And that car is going to have to have an understanding of the conditions it is driving through to keep its passengers safe.”

On January 23, 2014, the Boulder startup won a Global Challenge Cup regional competition in the “Smart Cities” category.  WeatherCloud also won the Emerging Cleantech Company Award from the Colorado Cleantech Industries Association last December.