They're called traffic information units and they're powered by the sun.
In layperson's terms, they're web cameras, and if proven worthy under a provincial pilot project, will by March tell you highway conditions from the comfort of your home before you venture out.
The province is testing five of them on two highways as a way to send out snow-clearing equipment to sections most in need of snow removal.
"I think that's a good use of technology," Premier Greg Selinger said Wednesday after southern Manitoba saw its first major dump of snow. "It's a technology that can sense and get accurate information of what's going on (with) the roads and be able to deploy equipment to the highest-need areas."
Selinger said the long-term plan will see more cameras installed on highways that have the most traffic.
Selinger said the solar-powered cameras are being tested on sections of the Trans-Canada Highway and Highway 75 to see if they're durable enough in Manitoba weather. On the Trans-Canada, cameras are located at Kirkella near the Saskatchewan boundary, Oakville between Portage la Prairie and Winnipeg and Deacons Corner east of Winnipeg at the Hwy. 207 intersection. On Hwy. 75, cameras are located at Ste. Agathe and Letellier. The cameras cost $10,000 each.
Seven more cameras are to be operational by March and a website launched to allow motorists to see driving conditions rather than reading a report from the Infrastructure and Transportation Department's road and traveller information web page. The new cameras will be installed south of Brandon, south of The Pas, north and south of Grand Rapids, near Austin, west of Russell and south of Ste Rose du Lac.
Selinger said the province will look at developing a mobile app as well.
"The bottom line is that we're using technology to let the public and the people who look after the highways know what the traffic conditions are in real time. If you take a certain route on a regular basis you'll get a better idea of what you're dealing with when you head out there."
The cameras will provide, in colour, regularly updated still images of highway conditions. Other provinces have had road condition camera systems for a number of years, including Alberta, British Columbia, Nova Scotia and Newfoundland and Labrador. The system Manitoba is installing is based on Alberta's system.
There are already a half-dozen private road cameras to show drivers the conditions in Gimli, Steinbach and Sanford and three locations in Winnipeg. The still images the cameras provide can be seen on the CAA Manitoba website.
The province says the road condition camera system is not to be a form of remote traffic enforcement to capture speeders, but only show current road conditions.
Installation of the cameras come as the province's snow-removal crews started rolling out their equipment after Wednesday's snowfall. There are 317 pieces of equipment, including 10 new truck plows and six loaders to replace aging or smaller equipment.