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Build your own Black Ice Detection system for your car using AutoPi

Build your own Black Ice Detection system for your car using AutoPi

The term “Black ice” refer to a winter phenomenon, where a layer of ice on the road is so thin it becomes transparent and thus appears “black” from the road below. This is a very common situation during winter times and can create hazardous situations for vehicles and pedestrians. The phenomenon often occurs when the temperature is right around freezing point and when a light rain hits a road surface which is below freezing point.


Did you know?
Over 1,300 people are killed and more than 116,800 people are injured in vehicle crashes on snowy, slushy or icy pavement annually.

The Bureau of General Safety in Maine (United States) has issued a list of things to watch out for when driving, this includes:

  • Pavement looks new or dark
  • Low-lying areas which can collect melted water that can refreeze
  • Use seat covers
  • Shaded road areas, where the sun can not heat it up
They also mention a couple precautions you can make:
  • Slow down
  • Wear seatbelts
  • Drive with headlights on
  • Increase safety margins to vehicles ahead
  • Avoid quick steering movements
All of these precautions and things to watch out for is dependant on the individual driver and can be forgotten in a moment of inattention. It is also hard to be prepared for a situation you cannot see. What if you could develop an electronic system that could assist you in a hazardous situation like this. This is possible using the AutoPi system.

What is AutoPi?

AutoPi is a small device that plugs into the OBD-II port of your car.

Once connected, the AutoPi device will automatically start working. It has 4G/3G connectivity, so it is always connected to the Internet. It also comes with a lot of other features, for example continuous GPS tracking. One of the main advantages of the AutoPi is its many extension options.

It comes with an online cloud dashboard, that you can login to from any device. From here you can setup your system and do real-time tracking of your vehicle telematics.

Black Ice detection using AutoPi

Some car models have outside temperature sensors built in. These temperature sensors is meant to measure the outside air temperature, but often does not give a precise reading of the air temperature because of engine heating. And when dealing with “black ice” it is more precise to know the surface temperature.

AutoPi has a lot of extension possibilities through one of its ports. This makes it possible to build and extend a lot of different things with your AutoPi. An example is this infrared temperature sensor from Phidgets Inc:

Phidget Temperature Sensor
Phidget Temperature Sensor

This specific sensor can be connected directly to one of the USB ports of the AutoPi dongle. An infrared thermometer measures the infrared energy from an object and uses this to determine the temperature of that object (or surface). Using this technique it is possible to measure temperature without touching the object.

The infrared temperature sensor is mounted on the vehicle (a specific casing can be acquired for the Phidgets sensor) and set to point towards the road surface in a forward pointing angle, this must be calibrated to give the best result.

Black Ice Dection Sensor
Black Ice Dection Sensor

When the sensor has been installed in the vehicle, it is simply connected to the USB port of the AutoPi.

The AutoPi dongle and IoT platform contains a lot of possibilities to extend the temperature input from the Phidget sensor. Because all of the input and outputs in the AutoPi dongle, it can be combined in a rule based system (also known as an if-this-then-that system). Using this it is possible to build an in-car warning system using the built-in speaker in the AutoPi dongle.

Black Ice Detection system with AutoPi
Black Ice Detection system with AutoPi

The AutoPi dongle will record the temperature measured by the infrared temperature sensor, and based on the rules defined in the AutoPi cloud dashboard it is able to react on these measurements. An example could be to warn the driver by, using the speaker in the dongle. This can be accomplished using a cloud based service, like Google Assistant.

This is an example of how the AutoPi can be used to extend the usage and safety of your vehicle. We hope you got a better understanding of what you can do with the AutoPi.

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