This month Toyota and Weathernews have begun using data collected from car windshield wipers to map rainfall. As wipers are only used in poor weather, the data from these connected vehicles can be compared with the actual forecast to improve accuracy.
Localized downpours are notoriously difficult to predict, so it’s hoped the new system will keep forecasters updated and enable road users to monitor conditions in very small areas. As the rate of accidents increases approximately fourfold in adverse weather, this should contribute to driver safety and will also be useful to the emergency services.
In previous tests, low clouds often produced rain that didn’t appear on radar, and the companies relied on drivers reporting rain via the Weathernews app. This first-hand data closely matched the areas where drivers were using their wipers, so there is clearly a direct correlation between wiper use and poor weather, as well as wiper speed and how hard the precipitation is falling.
Nearly all Toyotas produced from now on will have onboard data-communication modules. The installation of such technology enables weather data to be uploaded and – crucially – will enable vehicles to communicate with one another in real time so drivers can be warned about adverse weather on their route that may not be showing on conventional radar. Toyota and Weathernews expect the data to be so precise that their artificial-intelligence algorithms can even predict where roads will flood.