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Neural Network Approach to Variable Vehicle

Speed Limitation upon Weather Conditions

Maged M. M. Fahmy
Computer Department, College of Applied Studies, King Faisal University, Saudi Arabia
Postal Code 31952, P.O.B. 40287, Al Khobar, KSA
Abstract- The target of this research is to adapt a Neural
Network Approach that could be used in determining proper
vehicle speed upon relevant conditions data. These include
weather condition such as: Precipitation intensity, speed of
wind, and degree of visibility, and road surface condition. Data
are input to neural network. Output driven is a decision about
allowed (advised) speed of a vehicle along highway which is
appropriate to the atmospheric and road surface conditions at
locations of interest. Such application could reduce the
possibility of accidents resulting from excess speed when bad
weather condition.



Systems are designed to give drivers advanced
information on weather and roadway conditions This is to
provide early warning to information to motorists regarding
dangerous driving conditions due to low visibility caused by
rain, blowing snow, or blowing dust, etc. Road users will
slow down the vehicle in order to keep safe driving while the
visibility is decreased or the pavement condition is bad.
Generally, the types of adverse weather could be classified
as: fog reduces visibility, either rain or snow and both of
them reduce visibility and worsen pavement condition, either
flooding or ice and both of them worsen pavement condition.
Wind also has an impact on speeds.
Reference [6] studied the effect of adverse weather on
freeway operations in Canada. It conducted tests on the
effects of rain and snow on speed-flow-occupancy
relationships, summarizing their findings into three
categories: clear and rainy weather, clear and snowy weather,
and rainy and snowy weather. They found the following
reductions in the free-flow speed: Light rain caused a 2 km/h
drop; Light snow caused a 3 km/h drop; Heavy rain caused a
5 to 10 km/h drop; Heavy snow caused a 38 to 50 km/h drop.
They also note that their measurements are site-specific and
that other factors may cause different speed changes at other
locations based on varying driver experience with poor
weather, and the design of the highway. Reference [7]
concluded that darkness reduces driver speeds by 5 km/h.
They also found a drop of 9.5 km/h on two-lane and 12 km/h
on three-lane wet roadway segments.
Weather conditions influence the vehicle speed selected
by most drivers. Drivers are mostly responding to severe
weather conditions when existing. For example, reduced
visibility due to fog caused a 10 km/h decline in mean
speeds on a freeway. Greater reductions in speed can be
observed under extreme conditions. Reference [8] found the
standard deviation of speed doubles during fog events and
triples during snow events. The researchers also found:
- Wind speed reduces driver speed by 1.1 km/h for every
km/h of wind speed exceeding 40 km/h.
- Drivers reduced their speed by 1.6 km/h during nighttime
- The presence of a snow floor reduced average speeds by
5.6 km/h.


Transport Experts concluded that adverse weather can

affect not only capacity, but also reduces operating speeds
significantly. Many studies conduct effects of a variety of
weather-related environmental factors on driver speeds as
part of an Intelligent Transportation Systems [1, 2, 3].
Variable speed limit systems are now beginning to be used
in countryside locations where severe atmospheric and road
surface conditions create a variety of transportation hazards
[4, 5]. These hazards can be acute on countryside highways
where static speed limit signs often post high speeds and
emergency services may be distant. Normal posted speed
limits are based on ideal conditions for the roadway
geometry and surface. Variable speed limit systems can be
used to lessen the dangers of this type of environment by
displaying to motorists cautious maximum speed limits
which reflect the current atmospheric and road surface
conditions. Data used in this research are collected from
traffic experts and references, including those published on
the Internet, so that it could be used as a test bed to monitor
the complete data set of atmospheric and road surface
conditions needed to train and test the speed prediction tool.
It is worthily mentioned that these data are form different
location in many countries. For such systems to be
applicable in practice, data should be collected from weather
stations along a certain road. After analyzing the collected
data, many data records are used as basis and the table was
expanded to form the data set required for training and
testing the prediction tool. A back- propagation algorithm for
predicting the traffic speed under adverse weather conditions
is proposed. MATLAB, powerful Mathematics software, is
adopted and used to simulate this neural network. The
network inputs are weather conditions together with road
condition, while the outputs are advised speeds along a road.

978-1-4244-2116-9/08/$25.00 2008 IEEE


Reference [9] compared speed data collected during

daylight hours on wet and dry days at 22 sites in Illinois and
found no practical differences. The maximum difference in
speed was less than 4km/h. Reference [10] put control
strategies for various road weather conditions shown in



C. Disaggregate Effects of Environmental Factors

Data with common characteristics were identified to sort
the individual or disaggregate effects on vehicle speed.
Historic traffic data is fundamental for prediction systems.
results shown in TABLE 4 and TABLE 5 should be
In this research, all the information could be retrieved from
with the normal day mean of 109 km/h.
the Internet. The collected data are roughly categorized into
two types, speed and weather condition at the same time.


A. Normal Conditions
Reference [11], using two studies cited in Reference [7]
and Reference [8], proposed the free-flow speed reductions.
A baseline for normal conditions in which drivers should
base their speeds on roadway is shown in TABLE 2.


B. Aggregate Effects of Environmental Factors

TABLE 3 shows the effects of each of the four key factors
(visibility, road surface condition, precipitation intensity, and
wind speed) on vehicle speed. These data show the aggregate
effects of each variable alone, without accounting for the
interactive effects with the other variables.
When visibility drops to less than 0.16 km, driver speeds
drop by more than 14 km/h below the level when visibility is
not a factor. Snow or ice on the roadway reduces vehicle
speeds by nearly 10 km/h below dry pavement conditions.
Precipitation (rain intensity) has a varying effect, depending
on the intensity. Wind speeds above 48 km/h have a
statistically significant effect on driver speed. Snow, with its
more lingering effects on pavement condition, has a more
significant effect than has fog. Fog days include both heavy
rain and transitions to fog clouds. But clearly these effects
are interactive [TABLE 3].

Three groups of data were identified that shed some light

on the effects of wind speed and precipitation on driver
speed. Table 4 shows three cases in which there was either
light or medium precipitation and high wind speeds.
Visibility was good and the pavement was dry for each case.
Mean speeds ranged from 82.0 km/h to 85.9 km/h, or 24 to
27 km/h below the normal day conditions of 109 km/h.
Two cases were identified in which the effects of snow- or
ice-covered pavement could be identified, See Table 5 In
each case, visibility was good, there was no precipitation,
and wind speed was less than 16 km/h. Both cases had mean
speeds ranging from 21 to 23 km/h less than normal day
speed of 109 km/h. These results show that the presence of
ice or snow on the pavement cause drivers to dramatically
reduce their speeds.


One set of data had limited visibility (between 0.16 and

0.37 km), dry pavement, no precipitation, and wind speeds
less than 16 km/h. Mean driver speed was about 2 km/h less
than the speed measured for normal conditions. This shows
that visibility by itself may not significantly affect driver
speeds. However, it may be that visibility below 0.16 km is
required before its effect on speed become evident. While
the previous discussion helps to identify some of the
individual effects.
High wind effect is a 9.0 km/h reduction in free-flow
speeds for wind speeds above 48 km/h.
Note that to assess the effect of more than one variable,
the speed reductions are additive. For example, the effect of
light precipitation and a wet roadway surface, indicative of
light rain, the cumulative effect is 4.8 + 4.5, or a 9.3 km/h
speed reduction [11].

various aspects of road safety, atmospheric factors, and road

surface conditions. These data are considered the inputs for
the Neural Network. Six of these inputs are continuously
varying. These are Visibility, Rain, snow, pavement
condition, wind speed, and Wind direction. Road surface
condition and Emergency are temporarily varying. The
reason is that the Road surface condition is not changing
frequently and the Emergency is happening suddenly and its
effect could be removed within short time. Some other
variables are constants such as number of lanes of a road.
The required system outputs are: A customary maximum
speed of passengers and other output maximum speed of
trucks. Data table of this research is constructed based on
both the information obtained from the Internet and the
analysis of previous studies discussed in Section 2 of this
paper. These data are used directly or parsed and expanded
to be the desired format as inputs and outputs pairs
variables. The measuring unit and description of each input
(environmental factor measurements) and output (speeds)
data used in this research for constructing data table are
summarized in TABLE 6


Neural Network is a powerful model in solving complex
problems. In this study, multi-layer feed forward back
propagation neural network is used as prediction model.
Since the neural network has natural potential of solving
nonlinear problem and can easily achieve the input-output
mapping, it is perfect to use it for solving the predicting
problem [12].

B. Neural Network Structure

Figure 1 is the architectural graph of a multilayer feed
forward back propagation neural network. The input layer
consists of nine neurons each receives one input signal.
Those signals flow from left to right through hidden layer.
The output layer in the right hand side has three neurons;
each is conducting one output parameter.

A. Neural Input and Output Variables

It is necessary to determine the relevant input and output
dimensions for the problem at hand. This was determined
primarily through the acquisition of expert knowledge in



Figure 1. Neural network structure.

C. Back-Propagation Algorithm
Basically, error back-propagation learning consists of two
passes through different layers of the network: a forward pass
and a backward pass. In the forward pass, an activity pattern
(input vector) is applied to the sensory nodes of the network,
and its effect propagates forward through the network layer
by layer. Finally, a set of outputs is produced as the actual
response of the network. During the forward pass, the
synaptic weights of the networks are all fixed. During the
backward pass, on the other hand, the synaptic weights are all
adjusted in accordance with an error correction rule.
Specifically, the actual response of the network is subtracted
from a desired (target) response to produce an error signal.
This error signal is then propagated backward through the
network, against the direction of synaptic connections. Hence,
the name is error back-propagation. The synaptic weights
are adjusted to make the actual response of the network move
closer to the desired response in a statistical sense. That
means it is reaching the minima of the error surface. In this
sense, the output is closest to the expected response. In this
model, that means the predicted speed is closer to the real
world speed as much as possible.

Training Criteria And Model Settings

The hidden neurons perform the mapping process from the
input data to the output speeds. Weights are used to connect
each neuron to all neurons in the previous layer. The initial
values for those weights are random real numbers in the
range of 1 to +1. During network training, the weights are
adjusted following the Equation:
w(t) = - yj yj (dj yj) (1 yj) + w(t 1)


, where

w(t) is the change of weight at iteration t

is the learning rate, the larger the learning rate the larger
the weight changes in each epoch.
is the momentum factor, a simple method of increasing
the rate of learning, usually a positive number.
yj is the actual output at neuron j.
dj is desired output at neuron j.
yi is the output of the neurons at layer i that are connected
to neuron j.

In order to obtain the training results quickly and

appropriately, there are some training criteria and model
settings to be established. Learning rate , has been set as
0.17. The larger the learning rate , the larger the weight
changes in each epoch, and the quicker the network learns.
However, the size of the learning rate can also influence
whether the network achieves a stable solution. If the
learning-rate parameter is too large, in order to speed up the
rate of learning, the resulting large changes in the synaptic
weights assume such a form that the network may become
unstable (i.e., oscillatory). Default momentum factor, is set
as 0.065 in this research. Momentum term is a simple method
of increasing the rate of learning yet avoiding the danger of
instability. The concept of momentum is that previous
changes in the weights should influence the current direction
of movement in weight space [13].
logsig Function has been chosen to be the activation
function for each neuron. logsig is a transfer function that
calculates a layer's output from its net input. logsig(N) takes
one input, N -- S x Q matrix of net input (column) vectors
and returns each element of N squashed between 0 and 1. It is
used in this research because the outputs are positive values
represent speeds. It follows that:
logsig(n) = 1 / (1 + exp(-n)),
In this study, epochs was set as 3000 for each training
session. It is useful to preprocess the data before introducing
it to the network. In this research, the data were scaled to vary
between [-1, 1]. Training will be stopped if the mean squared
error is less than 10e-7. The order of input data had been
randomized before introducing it to the network. The average
number of iterations to minimize the output error is set to
1000 (number of training epochs) and the threshold (accepted
value) for error level at the output is 1 10-7. The learning
rate = 0.17 and = 0.065. The back propagation neural
networks are trained with supervision. The output required to
associate certain speed limits are introduced to the network
together with the input weather & road data inputs.

The neural network responses (obtained results)

The training stops after 2771 iterations because the goal
was met and validation error began to increase. A diagnostic
tool to plot the training, validation, and test errors is used to
check the progress of training. The result is shown in Figure 2.
Some analysis of the network response is done. Linear
regression between network outputs and targets is used to
determine the adequacy of network fit. The entire data set are
put through the network (training, validation, and test) and a
linear regression is performed between the network outputs
and the corresponding targets. Firstly, the network outputs are
denormalized. Three regressions are done since there are
three network outputs. The results are shown in Figures 3, 4,
and 5. In those Figures, A is the resultant network output, T is
the target output, each data point (t,a) represents a pair of
resultant and target outputs pair, and R is the regression for
that certain output.


Figure 5. Regression of mean speed along road output 3.

Figure 2. Neural network response.

research are collected from the internet and many researches

on the effect of weather condition, and road condition, data
on the vehicle speed. For real world application, such data
should be collected in real time from road weather stations.
Such neural network could be used to predict the relevant
speed for passenger car or truck. This output of neural
network could be continuously displayed along roads or
broadcasted through local radio stations that advices vehicle
driver about the speed limit. This is of special importance for
highways where high speeds might be allowed. The results
has demonstrated that, neural network is an effective tool to
predict variable speed limits upon relevant conditions if
appropriate model architecture and input data are available.
With precise traffic speed prediction, number of accidents
could be reduced. Also, travelers can easily obtain the travel
time information so as to arrange their schedule by using a
traveler information system.
Future work includes adding other input variables such as
average road capacity, average capacity during peak hours.
Further investigations should be done to find out other input
categories that could affect speed along road and add it to the
system. Real data should be supplied from road weather
stations along specific road. The produced output of the
neural network could be continuously displayed at highways.
Speeds appropriate to the atmospheric and road surface
conditions at locations of interest are broadcasted as a speed
management on rural highways.

Figure 3. Regression of passenger car speed output 1


Figure 4. Regression of truck speed output 2.


This research projects aims at investigating the use of
backpropagation artificial neural network as a tool for
determining the appropriate vehicle speed upon weather and
road data. It worth to mention that the data used in this

Many thanks are going to researchers who publish their

papers and collected data on the Internet. This helps a lot to
obtain data and previous research papers. Some care and
attention must be done in collecting such data and
investigating its validity. I am appreciating using MatLab that
makes simulation of neural networks much easier. All my
gratitude goes to my colleagues and family who helped in a
way or another to carry on this research.


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