MaaS Smart mobility Road safety Sustainability
Tuesday, 25 October 2022

Surprising solutions - Utopia, not dystopia

Intertraffic asked five people involved in different areas of the smart mobility sector a relatively simple question: what do you consider to be the most innovative technological breakthrough of the last five years? What has genuinely surprised you and made you think “Oh, that’s clever”?

Jenny simonson, director of operations and new mobility, its norway

It is hard to list only a few of the most innovative technological breakthroughs of the past five years, but I’m thinking about traffic safety, intelligent and sustainable transport like MaaS, better battery technology, and AI (Artificial Intelligence) for better and faster awareness and traffic navigation. However, moving on without talking about zero-emission aviation is now “a crime.” The way the industry has approached green aviation and transformed its thinking is nothing short of fantastic.

Autonomous driving has been hyped for a century; why is it considered innovative now? Because we have a breakthrough

But, to discuss effects like cost reduction, efficiency, less use of space in cities, sustainability, and traffic safety, we can’t avoid mentioning automation. I’m not talking about personal cars or taxis becoming autonomous but about the dramatic change software companies brought about for automatisation. Autonomous driving has been hyped for a century; why is it considered innovative now? Because we have a breakthrough! Autonomy is not just hype; it is here. Your car is already computer on wheels - advanced driver assistance is adopted as a standard and is widely accepted. As acceptance is critical for autonomy and any hype and also crucial for breakthroughs, I would shout out for autonomy.

darren capes, its policy lead, department for transport

The adoption of artificial intelligence and machine learning into traffic products would have to be my answer. I think it’s the productisation of machine learning in particular, because I think the companies that are doing that now are starting to mature systems that really will replace the 30 year old traffic management systems we all rely on. The work that companies such as VivaCity are doing with their smart junctions system, and the ability to actually implement some sort of machine learning into a system that can actually be used on the ground will massively change the agenda.

It's not only because it gives you a system that's far more flexible and intelligent than SCOOT, but it also gives you a system that will use the types of data we'll be getting from vehicles in the future. It allows you to potentially use a much wider source of data to make decisions about network management. That might sound a little bit dull, it’s not nuclear powered space hoppers or flying cars, a bit more prosaic than that but the use of AI and ML in actual products that we can now buy and implement in cities will change the way that cities work like very few other things actually will.

The point about the use of AI and ML is that it gives us the opportunity to replace local authorities’ existing traffic management systems with new systems

Now, the point about the use of AI and ML is that it gives us the opportunity to replace local authorities’ existing traffic management systems with new systems. So when we get to a situation where the decisions that are made about our cities are taken by policy set in the town hall and not by policies set in Sacramento or in Silicon Valley, because it gives us the opportunity to replace things like SCOOT with systems that allow us to have a basic understanding of a city’s basic transport rules, rather than leaving it to companies like Uber, as an example, who can do that for us. It allows you to think about technology providing some kind of utopian future rather than a dystopian future. I live in a city where local democracy has some kind of meaning and where we actually can elect and run councils that can make decisions about transport rather than leaving it to whicher app you choose to download and use on your phone.

ioannis kostopoulos, co-founder and ceo, sammyacht

From my point of view, I think that that the most promising thing is the integration, fusion and visualisation of data from different sources based on IoT and machine vision systems. By that I mean Integrated within a unified framework and unified systems in order to provide real time information, but also predictive analytics. Predictive analytics is very critical, particularly in the smart marina berth booking world and especially in a time where the impact in the environment and also the optimal use of energy resources or water consumption. It’s also critical for the minimising the movement of cars or vehicles in general, it is very critical for minimising the impact to the environment and for the creation of sustainable solutions based on these predictive analytics in real time.

The marina is the main point of reference for hosting the boat. So the predictive analytics estimates the flow of boats from one marina to the other and to optimize the berth in terms of minimising the impact on the environment

In our case, it is quite straightforward. We have the marina or harbour as the main point of reference for hosting the boat. So the predictive analytics estimates the flow of boats from one marina to the other and to optimize the berth in terms of minimising the impact on the environment through the appropriate use of berth spaces. Reducing engine idling is just as critical in marinas as it is on the road network. We are minimising traffic congestion and also the the possibility For collisions.

gordon stitt, business development manager, srl

In the sector I’ve just left (variable message signs), I’d say that the advancement of cloud technology, while not a new thing, was the first thing that came to my mind. I’ve now gone back into the traffic signals market and so I have to nominate the Urban64 product: intelligent temporary traffic signals that replicate permanent traffic signals. I first became aware of the Urban 64 on my way back from the airport and I tracked SRL and the product’s development. I could see what they were doing but had no intention of joining the company but when the opportunity came to work for SRL I knew there was not just a great product there but a new method in traffic management that was doing something that nobody else was doing. Urban64 can either replicate exactly the junction you need, or you put it in a place where there is no junction. But you can provide everything with a set of UTMC-compliant temporary traffic signals what the most advanced, permanent signals can do.

If customers have a wish list of what temporary traffic lights can give them, more often than not top of that list is that temporary signals should be UTMC compliant. It's going to give you the best possible solution available. So whereas if you've got a queue length of 500 metres constantly on a road segment where you are using portable, temporary traffic lights? We reckon we'll reduce that down to 150 metres.

If customers have a wish list of what temporary traffic lights can give them, more often than not top of that list is that temporary signals should be UTMC compliant

Temporary signals don't have to equal delays – the delays are created by people who don't do the job properly or who are not aware of the technology. I genuinely don't feel as though I’m being overly biased! I think it's actually a unique, major advancement in the technology of sector. I went to visit Glasgow City Council as one of my first customers and I was explaining the benefits of Urban64 and its UTMC compliance and the customer put her head in her hands and said “I can’t believe you're telling me this now” because they had just had a raft of huge concerts at Hampden Park. The traffic after Ed Sheeran’s concert, there was at least 50,000 people in attendance, was, to put it mildly, absolute carnage because on one of the routes outside the stadium had a set of temporary signals and there was no way of remotely access them. Again, if they had been under UTMC control the CCTV cameras would have picked up the congestion, the control room will have seen it and implemented a plan to flush the traffic out. Simple but innovative.

paul hutton, communications manager, its uk and ceo ph initiatives

If you’d asked me for the best transport-related piece of technology in this century, I’d have said the sat nav – something that knows where you are, can work out the best route to your destination and update that based on traffic levels (and therefore level the demand on different roads). It’s something that we take for granted now but has made such a difference to traffic management.

In the last five years? Can I suggest a few? eCall – your car knows when you’ve had a crash, knows exactly where you are and alerts the emergency services straight away. Vital for drivers, especially if they crash in rural areas where giving a location is very difficult, or on roads where they are not sure where they are.

Vital also for emergency services who can know a lot about the vehicle they’re heading towards – whether it’s an Electric Vehicle or it has an Internal Combustion Engine, whether it’s on its roof, and even how many occupants it has.
I think the growth in average speed cameras has given us a very important road safety benefit with fair and accepted enforcement

I think the growth in average speed cameras has given us a very important road safety benefit with fair and accepted enforcement, radar and lidar technology is not only giving us safer vehicles, but properly counting and protecting active road users, ie pedestrians and cyclists. And given I came into this industry running a traffic news operation I have to say floating vehicle data, which has led to better traffic management and modelling, as well as happier, more informed and less stressed drivers!

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