Big data Autonomous driving Traffic management
Tuesday, 13 September 2022

Data driven traffic management: a question of trust

Valerann co-founder and CBO Michael Vardi tells Intertraffic how advances in artificial intelligence are redefining the concept of modern mobility and roadway operations by enabling actionable, accurate and timely data-driven decision making.

DATA EMPOWERMENT

“I can summarise everything that we do in one word,” says Valerann co-founder and CBO Michael Vardi confidently. “Trust. We need to make sure that the people that we trust to manage our road network are able to trust the data that they get, and the decisions they make based on that data. As I see it, our mission is to empower these road operators through the data by helping them to trust their data by helping them act upon that data in order to get a much more impactful response.”

How does Vardi assess his company’s ability to process the influx of vehicle data? As one exhibitor put it at Intertraffic Amsterdam 2022: “We are not far away from being in a situation where we have so much data that we don’t know what to do with it.”

“The context for this is, as you mentioned, this influx in data sources coming both from more highly leveraged existing cameras, loops, radars, that are providing data, but also have analytics that are extracting more data. But this is also coming from connected sources, be it vehicles, in-vehicle devices or cell phones that are bringing more data into the ecosystem. Now, on an average road network we are collecting something like 100 million data points every day.

“The trust gap between the data available and the actions that are being taken is evident”

“This is where what we call the gap of trust between the data available and the actions that are being taken is evident,” Vardi says. “When you go to the traffic control centre of almost any major operator in the world you will see dozens of screens with CCTV footage data from devices along the road, weather data, you'll see data from connected vehicles and so on, but despite all of this richness, ultimately, they rely on phone calls to detect events, CCTV to manually validate them, and then a patrol to respond. So you have a lot of data coming in and very manual processes being executed. They don't trust the data that they have. What Valerann does is enable operators to be able to take that data, use it to detect the things that matter and then prioritise them based on what needs to be responded to. You then connect the operator back to enable them to respond based on the tools they have in their arsenal. Action, prioritisation and response.”

making the connection

As Vardi maintains, the more vehicles become connected, it is crucial for the road operator to learn how to take that data and how to triangulate it in order to trust it. Connected vehicles will enable operators to make faster decisions, save lives, reduce congestion, reduce emissions, and even save money on maintenance. A win-win situation if ever there was one.

However, it's not just about analytics. As Vardi elucidates, data fusion also plays a vital role in the provision of AI-powered, data-driven insight.

“I define data fusion as relating different data sources to the same event to triangulate and authenticate what is happening. And so by understanding the advantages and limits of each data source, for example, if you have repair works on your road, a loop will show you the traffic jam, Waze will say “lane blocked” and your machine vision will say “pedestrian on the road”. Those are three different alerts telling one story. You need to be able to understand how those all relate to come to that conclusion. So that's data fusion.”

“Of you have repair works on your road, a loop will show you the traffic jam, Waze will say ‘lane blocked’ and your machine vision will say ‘pedestrian on the road’. Those are three different alerts telling one story”

What is also critical, both for today's operators and perhaps even more importantly, for CAVs, is automation.

“Once the information is received, it’s a question of what steps I am able to automate in order to respond more effectively, right now,” explains Vardi. “It could be something as simple as there's an event so connect me to the nearest camera just to cut down the time it takes to manually authenticate an event. But it can be more advanced things like sending a patrol, or even more advanced things such as if I see a wrong-way driver then I should immediately send an alert to all upcoming vehicles to move out of the rightmost lane or to slow down.”

everyone benefits

The next step, or leap if you prefer, is once vehicles become connected and autonomous, is the increase in the understanding of the road network to help the operator monitor and guide the autonomous vehicles on it. This, explains Vardi, has two big benefits.

“The first one is to the vehicle itself. Looking at the levels of autonomy, level five, which is where a vehicle can operate in full capacity in all scenarios no matter what. is a dream that even Waymo says will never happen, so what’s interesting is the level three/level four autonomy. The reason it's interesting is because it basically admits that there are going to be some instances in which the vehicle is autonomous and some instances in which it's not. And if the operator is able to provide more trusted information to the vehicle, what you're essentially able to do is to extend what's called the operational design domain.”

“If the operator is able to provide more trusted information to the vehicle, what you're essentially able to do is to extend what's called the operational design domain”

Vardi continues: “So this is the area in which the vehicle can operate autonomously, but it can do so not only geographically but also in terms of level operations. So that means if your vehicle is completely autonomous when it rains, it goes down to 15 km/h. That's not healthy. And the reason why you will have to go down to such a slow speed is because in the rain the vehicle can only see so far ahead. If the infrastructure can extend that vision then even in rain your vehicle can suddenly go 60 km/h. Now that's useful!”

By adding trusted information and sharing it, aren’t you effectively extending the autonomy of the vehicles on the road? Vardi concurs.

“That's something that is useful to the entire ecosystem,” he says. “But the second thing, and this is why it's so important, is that the road operator is actually the only player that has both the capability and the incentive to operate the entire network in a way that is optimised for the network. If the fleet operators ran the show, effectively unmonitored, then they're going to optimise around their own fleets. You can have a cab-hailing company sending cars with people inside them into traffic jams, and then using the empty back routes for their empty cars. We need to ensure that the players interact in a way that optimises the network and not the individual player.”

“Our solution is powered by data and driven by insight in that it takes the data sources from your roads and allows you to automate based on your priorities”

PREPARE FOR IMPACT

It’s indisputable that the role of data in the traffic management sector is rapidly evolving. The use of ITS, once reliant upon traditional fixed road infrastructure, has been hugely instrumental and influential in the daily management of road network but the data’s potential has not been getting unlocked. Until now.

“Our solution is powered by data and driven by insight in that it takes the data sources from your roads and allows you to automate based on your priorities,” summarises Vardi. “It can save you money whilst also saving lives, producing time and reducing traffic emissions. I think that's where, over time, Valerann will create the real impact and the real dent in this industry.”

For more information, visit the Valerann company profile.

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