Research Archive

Clarus Initiative "FAQ" (Frequently Asked Questions)

These questions refer to past Clarus activities.  An updated set of FAQs are currently being developed.

Q: Is Clarus an entirely new effort, or does it encapsulate some of the earlier individual road-weather projects and initiatives, such as MDSS? Please explain.

A: Clarus meets a need for data made clearer by the Maintenance Decision Support System (MDSS) project while also building on related road weather efforts by many others such as State DOTs (especially Aurora and the Multistate RWIS Group) and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). So while Clarus is a new effort it is also a progression on the efforts made by the broad surface transportation weather community.

Q: Who is funding Clarus?

A: Clarus is a U.S. DOT funded activity, drawing from the ITS program funds of the ITS Joint Program Office. So far there is no additional program funding from NOAA, but we do plan to leverage off of their related efforts.

Q: Clarus is (obviously) spearheaded by federal public-sector agencies (U.S. DOT, with some NOAA involvement). What will be the role of the private sector in this initiative? Do you anticipate that there will be significant future opportunities for the private sector to profit in this arena? If so, how?

A: Private sector involvement is key to the initiative’s success. The government is very much focused on conducting research that opens up new market opportunities, and Clarus will do the same. We envision significant future opportunities for new decision support products, information delivery products, or even information content products. One of the objectives of the Clarus initiative is to establish stable, reliable access to surface transportation weather observations. Achieving consistent quality in the data itself will yield new market opportunities. We also want to encourage services by national companies whose customers don’t think in terms of political boundaries – to do so means that we must overcome data sharing barriers.

Q: What types of "gaps in present day observation networks" will Clarus be designed to fill?

A: Most of today’s observing networks, and by extension the weather forecasts/products based on them, focus on the atmosphere and not the road surface where we live and operate our vehicles. In order to develop the road weather products that meet our needs, we need the data. Clarus starts by providing access to existing RWIS sensors, and then will fill the voids between sensors by pulling data from vehicles and remotely (e.g., from satellites).

Q: What new opportunities for weather data collection exist?

A: This is an exciting time to be in the weather business. Data collection interests have blossomed throughout the spectrum of surface interests, such as water treatment facilities, agriculture, and power companies. Significant focus has been drawn to surface properties because of their sensitivity to weather events, and that sensitivity will continue to grow. Consider the growth of cities in severe weather prone areas: states like Florida, Texas, and Louisiana will encounter increased threats from localized weather events as communities in those areas expand to occupy more territory. Safeguarding the public will demand greater investments in ground based observations, as well as the vehicle and satellite-based sensor capabilities briefly mentioned above.

Q: Do you anticipate that information derived from vehicles through the Vehicle-Infrastructure Integration initiative (VII) -- if it is ultimately implemented -- will be a significant input into the surface transportation weather observing, forecasting, and data management system? If so, what provisions are or will be made to accommodate that information.

A: Throughout the development of the VII -- and even before the term VII was coined -- the auto manufacturers recognized the potential of mobile weather observation. The Automotive Multimedia Interface Collaboration (AMI-C) web site features use cases and message set documents that touch upon weather uses. Further work in this area needs to progress, particularly in the architectural concept of the VII, before it becomes clearer how to best use VII in Clarus.

Clarus' long-term objective is to "develop and demonstrate an integrated surface transportation weather observing, forecasting, and data management system." Related questions:

Q: Who will be defining the goals of this system?

A: A lot of work occurred in a very short time span to get the initiative launched. The first such activity was to task Iteris and Meridian Environmental Technology to craft a Clarus Concept of Operations. USDOT also tasked this same team to collaborate with an Initiative Coordinating Committee (ICC) composed of stakeholders. ICC members are forming Project Task Forces to focus better on key topics, such as the system goals. This work is just now getting underway, but we’re very optimistic of seeing substantial progress by the next Clarus meeting in March 2005.

Q: When you talk about "demonstrating" it, would that likely be through some kind of model deployment?

A: There will be both a demonstration and a model deployment. The three Clarus Initiative tracks represent successive stages of system development. The system design track should establish the design and a proof that the design works by 2006. The demonstration track will test the design for its ability to accomplish key outcomes, such as saving lives and other benefits. The model deployment track will involve hardening the design so that it can better accommodate the expected system outcomes.

Q: Do you have any idea about the timeframe of this demonstration yet?

A: We expect the demonstration to occur in early 2007.

Q: Who (including which agencies) would ultimately deploy this kind of system?

A: Our goal is to develop an open, extensible system design that can be implemented by any organization and that can readily accept data from new sources like VII. Many stakeholders will play a part in deploying this system, including States who install the sensors and then perform the first stage of collection, and then NOAA and/or the private sector that would do additional assimilation, quality control, and quality assurance. Users of the data, whether directly or via value-added information products, include the States, NOAA, and the private sector, as well as others such as transit and trucking agencies and emergency managers.

Q: How far will this effort progress? Will it go as far as providing detailed specifications so that states can procure and deploy Clarus?

A: Absolutely, and possibly more. A model for the system design is the Linux operating system, in which many readily available ‘shrink-wrapped’ versions are available. Systems integration challenges always occur, of course, but we want to make Clarus implementation as simple as possible so that we can extend its use.

Q: How is Clarus related to the iFlorida Model Deployment, which has a number of innovative weather-related components?

A: Clarus is related to many other efforts that include and extend beyond the iFlorida Model Deployment. Other successful models of sharing weather information include MesoWest and the Oklahoma Mesonet. The Clarus Initiative and Design will and should draw from those and other successful efforts around the globe.

Q: Do you envision that Clarus will be -- or will lead to -- a national repository of weather-related information?

A: It’s important to distinguish between road-weather data and the value-added road-weather information products that can be generated from that data. Clarus is all about data sharing to enable the development of these value-added products. We would characterize Clarus as more of a "national repository of road weather data from which weather-related information can be generated."

Q: I understand that a Clarus RFP will be issued around the end of October 2004. At a high level, what will be the focus of that solicitation?

A: This RFP concerns the creation of the Clarus System Design. This System Design contract will span the systems development life cycle (consider the System Engineering VEE model that USDOT promotes) for the stages following the Concept of Operations.

Q: What does NOAA bring to this partnership that is specifically related to weather conditions/prediction for the surface transportation system?

A: NOAA has been doing this sort of data assimilation for years, and brings a wealth of knowledge and experience to the table that will help us avoid reinventing the wheel or developing data management processes (e.g., quality control algorithms) that already exist. In addition, NOAA is actively engaged in developing an Integrated Surface Observing System and National Cooperative Mesonet that provides the same sort of functionality as Clarus, but for many other types of weather data. As we both move forward down very similar paths, we can build off each other's efforts to minimize duplication.

Q: Explain about the status of the ICC initiative. What task forces are now up and running and who chairs them? What additional task forces may be defined over the next year or so?

A: Three task forces are currently active. The first is the User Needs review, which is chaired by Charlene Wilder of FTA. The second is the Use Case/ Applications Area review, which is chaired by Brenda Boyce of Mixon/Hill, Inc. The third is Leveraging Opportunities, which is chaired by Steve Albert of the Montana State University Western Transportation Institute.

Q: A slide from your recent (9/24/04) ICC Meeting referred to "epic battles" between ITS standards and WMO standards. What exactly are WMO standards? Why are these standards competing and what might the Clarus initiative do to sort this issue out?

A: The WMO is the World Meteorological Organization – the body responsible for developing and managing weather standards. Through Clarus and related efforts, two different "worlds" – the weather world and the transportation world – will soon overlap when it comes to sharing data. We’ll soon have systems using weather standards and ITS standards that will not be able to talk to each other. While it may be easy to say that we just need to develop translators between the two worlds, we don’t yet know where and how such processes will take place. Through Clarus we will better define those conflicts, and then develop solutions to ease and enable data sharing between these two worlds.