A group of German researchers at Leibniz University of Hannover have been looking to solve a problem many would believe has already been solved; how to accurately measure rainfall. While our current methods have improved over the years, these scientists have seen the potential of using vehicles on the road to improve the number of measurement points, resulting in more accurate regional data.
What they came up with is a device that uses a car’s windshield wipers to measure the current rainfall. These “RainCars” in Germany alone could add an additional 40 million measurement points if every car was equipped with the proper device, and the scientists see this as a great opportunity to predict weather disasters such as flooding.
It is a clever idea but it isn’t without some obvious flaws such as the measurement being accomplished by analyzing the windshield wiper’s speed to determine the amount of rain. Everyone has their own preference for how much water should accumulate on the windshield before wiping it off, so relying on those cars would not give a consistent result.
The researchers have recognized this as a main flaw to their approach, and have agreed that only cars using automated windshield wipers should be considered for collecting data. Project leader Uwe Haberlandt stated in the group’s report that the “optical sensors measure the rain on the windshield in a more direct and continuous manner so, currently, they would be the better choice for rain sensors in cars.”
Up until this point, the “RainCar” has only been tested in controlled environments and has not been fully tested outdoors with real rainfall and driving conditions. Real world factors such as wind, car speed, and water reflecting off other vehicles may make gathering an accurate measurement a bit more difficult.