CLARKSBURG, W.Va. (WBOY) — A West Virginia University researcher is taking a look at how new technologies may help states maintain their roads and other transportation networks.

With the aid of the $540,000 National Science Foundation CAREER award, Kakan Dey, an associate professor at the WVU Benjamin M. Statler College of Engineering and Mineral Resources, is researching ways a “data-driven approach can enhance roadway maintenance operations,” including the implementation of all-electric maintenance fleets and the use of vehicles that continuously share data about road conditions to an artificial intelligence, according to WVU Today.

Kakan Dey, associate professor, WVU Benjamin M. Statler College of Engineering and Mineral Resources (WVU Photo)

These “connected vehicles” upload data regarding factors like speed, road conditions, temperature and road friction, telling AI systems what roads need more attention.

“U.S. surface transportation systems are in poor condition, with bridges and roads already unable to support growing demands for freight and passenger transportation in many regions,” Dey said. “Winter storms and other severe weather conditions stimulated by climate change will put an enormous burden on top of that. This research lays the groundwork for transforming traditional and primarily static transportation network maintenance operations into next-generation, dynamic programs.”

The five-year project, “Transportation Network Maintenance under Climate Change, Resource Uncertainties and Connectivity,” will launch in October and has a focus on winter weather conditions, though Dey has said that his research can also apply to other road issues like potholes or flooding.

As for an all-electric maintenance fleet, Dey argued that with the proper investment and support, the transition would grant a net positive. Dey expects these changes to help state DOTs not only make the most of their resources but also save them money.

“Twenty-one percent of traffic crashes occur during adverse winter weather conditions,” Dey said. “Weather-related traffic delays cost the U.S. freight transportation industry $2.2 to $3.5 billion every year. And transportation agencies spend more than $2.3 billion annually for winter roadway maintenance in the U.S. Among all types of transportation network maintenance, winter roadway maintenance is the most complex and resource intensive.”

Other project experts include Anurag Srivastava, chair of the Lane Department of Computer Science and Electrical Engineering, Associate Professor Omar Abdul-Aziz and Assistant Professor Abhik Roy, a program evaluation specialist from the College of Applied Human Sciences.