A trio of Spanish companies has developed an innovative snowplow simulator that enables drivers to be trained, both in their driving skills and in the operation of the vehicles, including use of the scoops and blade for removing snow from roadways, and the salt container for spraying snow-melting material. This type of machinery is an essential part of infrastructure maintenance. Funded by Spain’s Center for Industrial Technological Development (CDTI), the simulator is the result of an R&D+i project that involved Indra, InfoNorte, and Valoriza Conservación de Infraestructuras, the infrastructure maintenance subsidiary of the Sacyr construction group. The simulator allows drivers to be trained in snow plow operations without having to be dependent on weather conditions, preventing any risks to them and other road users.
The cutting-edge simulator faithfully reproduces all the vehicle’s features, and includes parts of a real snow truck and the control panel for all the plow’s accessories. Developed with input from many of Valoriza’s plow drivers and winter road maintenance specialists, the driving position is mounted on a platform with six degree of movement, accurately reproducing the behavior and movement of a real machine under real operating conditions. A key feature of the simulator is the new graphics engine, which not only satisfies the general requirements for driving simulators, but also adds those needed to view the snow’s movement. The realism of the 3D effects allows the driver to train at any time of the day or night, and also under different environmental conditions, such as rain, fog, blizzards or with different degrees of snowfall. The simulator also reproduces effects, such as the work lights of the snowplows, the accumulation of snow on glass, or the effect of a cloud of snow removed by the blade.
The sophisticated display system allows drivers to practice in different work areas, including town centers, entries and exits to tunnels, car parks, twin-direction roads, freeways and mountain roads. Traffic modeling has also been integrated, so that other simulated vehicles will move in an accurate and realistic way on-screen. To train in snow removal, the student can determine the thickness of the initial layer. The system detects the driver’s actions on the bucket and the blade controls and represents them accurately in simulated form. The system uses a complex algorithm to be able to modify the thickness of the snow as the snowplow passes with the blade. It also reflects the marks made and the movement of the snow, so that if the machine returns to a plowed area, its previous work will remain. A mathematical model has been developed for the spraying of salt or saltwater, which calculates the type and amount of snow-melting material delivered and its effected area, in accordance with the vehicle’s trajectory and speed.