New icy road warning system lights up the streets in Chilliwack

WATCH: Black ice can be deadly on B.C. roads, and now the city of Chilliwack is installing new LED marker technology in a pilot project designed to help drivers get a grip. Geoff Hastings reports.

A possible solution to curbing road accidents caused by black ice is making its debut in Chilliwack, and it could be a sign of the future.

Developed in New Zealand, the “PATeye” is now embedded in 10 different stretches of road in the city, buried deep enough so it doesn’t get dug up by snow plow blades.

The small stud is packed with sensory technology that measures temperature and moisture, and lights up with blue flashes when ice forms on the road.

City officials say the combination of freezing temperatures and the position of the sun can allow ice to form extremely quickly, often before more traditional warnings can be issued or addressed.

“Especially in the fall, the winter and spring, road conditions can change throughout our community,” the city’s public safety specialist Samantha Piper said.

Story continues below advertisement

READ MORE: Here we snow again? Winter weather forecast for Metro Vancouver Thursday

“You can have your windows down on one side of Chilliwack and drive to another side, and the temperatures drops several degrees.”

The device, which is powered by solar energy, casts a light bright enough that it can even be picked up on traffic cameras, giving road crews an early warning of where trouble spots might be.

Craig Young with ATS Traffic, which sells these and other road safety devices to cities throughout western Canada, says the PATeye can do much more than just detect ice.

READ MORE: 63% of B.C. drivers set to repeat last year’s winter-driving mistakes

“Traffic counts, vehicle classifications, seismic [activity], snow depth sensors — those are actually being tested right now,” Young said.

The 10 devices are part of a pilot program that the city hopes to expand if it proves to be effective, but officials are confident that it will become a useful tool in their efforts to move to a networked road system.