Rain, wind, and visibility can influence driving safety and impact the bottom line for on- and off-highway fleets. Baron Services aims to improve safety and profitability by providing personalized weather alerts based on changing weather and roadway conditions.
The company, which has provided weather information to SiriusXM for years, is now working with Tier 1s and others to provide weather information including alerts that warn drivers as they’re approaching areas with hazards such as black ice or severe winds. These alerts can provide advisories such as taking alternate routes or not braking as hard. The information can be particularly helpful for commercial vehicles.
“Fleets can lose billions due to weather conditions,” said Chris Carr, Meteorologist and Business Development Director at Baron. “In agriculture, a week’s difference in planting can make a difference of several bushels per acre, and harvesting on the right day can save the cost of burning butane to dry out crops with too much moisture.”
Baron provides global information, going beyond basic weather data. Its software combines weather with other factors that can impact those who use its services.
“We divide the world into one square kilometer grids, [gathering] various weather information from sources including sensors on or near roads,” Carr said. “We also look at things like soil characteristics, which are very important for off-highway applications. Soil characteristics can also impact road surfaces, since runoff will be different for different soil types.”
Baron’s radar-derived rainfall accumulation feature splits a square kilometer into eight sections, computing rainfall in each area to give farmers accurate information. Baron’s patented tools also look at geographical factors that can impact the weather. The software also analyzes the ways that hills, mountains and buildings impact wind conditions.
“We look at the terrain to see how wind will be tunneled between mountain peaks,” Carr said.
He noted that understanding weather conditions can have a big impact in safety. The company is addressing passenger vehicles as well as fleets.
“Road conditions are a significant factor for accidents, 1.5 million accidents are related to weather every year,” Carr said. “Slick road conditions are a significant factor. Visibility and wind are also contributing factors. Wind is big in the fleet space.”
Providing useful information to users in a safe fashion is one of the challenges for development teams that use Baron’s service. Some of the initial implementations displayed moving maps on vehicle displays. While useful, that approach had some driver distraction issues.
“The appearance will depend on how our partner enables the alerts,” Carr said. “Some might push the notifications through text so drivers are aware of issues.”
The information can also be used to help improve risk analysis for usage-based insurance. Weather-based alerts can help encourage drivers to adapt and improve safety in various conditions, sometimes by adapting warnings for different types of drivers. For example, if past analysis shows that a driver is a hard braker, the level of a weather alert may be higher than for some other drivers, Carr explained.