What traffic information will do in future
BY THOMAS LUCAS-NÜLLE
(Published in The Produktkulturmagazin issue 4 2016)
TomTom is a market leader in providing traffic services and products around the globe. With a market reach of 47 countries, its services aim to make the journey of the driver both safer and faster. However, the customer portfolio of the company, although indeed placing a strong focus on users and drivers, also caters to public authorities. It is public authorities that are the ones burdened with the responsibility of ensuring viable traffic flows and efficient use of the infrastructure, as traffic is very much related to enabling transport, commerce and healthy economies. But with rapid speed, new options become available. With Nick Cohn, Senior Traffic Expert at TomTom, we talked about how intelligent traffic management will look like in the near future.
Nick, in which form and to what extent does traffic information exist today? What is the status quo?
After a decade of explosive growth and innovation, there is a wealth of traffic information available to the public. Traditional sources such as information from road authorities and automobile clubs still exist, but those have been brought into the 21st century by linking them to the web, media and smartphone channels. In 2008, TomTom was the first firm to create real-time traffic information integrated into connected, portable navigation devices. Now, traffic information is also available on in-dash systems and on connected devices such as smartphones and tablets. Thus, the availability is widespread, but the quality and coverage of traffic information has improved dramatically. We now provide real-time traffic information in 52 countries and on all roads with significant traffic volumes, for example. Ten years ago, the situation was such that traffic information was only available for parts of the highway/motorway networks in a handful of countries.
What does the term Floating Car Data mean?
Floating Car Data means information obtained in real or near-real-time from vehicles as they are moving across the road network. This type of information is possible based on two main technological innovations: broad commercial use of GPS and two-way connectivity, whereby information can be provided to drivers but also uploaded from vehicles to the cloud.
Why does the importance of FCD increase with a growing number of connected cars?
The quality of FCD increases with the growing number of connected cars. At the same time, the number of drivers who can benefit from FCD-based information also increases. This means that there is subsequently a greater effect on congestion when informing drivers of the traffic situation based on real-time FCD.
How can traffic information be combined and transformed into an efficient traffic management system in the future? Which parts does such a system require?
This transformation is already happening. First, more vehicles are connected, but also smartphones are becoming ubiquitous and are also connected. Thus, we create a comprehensive view of current traffic conditions. We can also predict traffic conditions much more accurately, not only for drivers but for road authorities as well, so they can actively and more effectively manage traffic and reduce delay. FCD can be (and is in many cases already) combined with other existing sources such as traffic signal status, road sensor data and weather information. So many of the required components already exist. The missing ones have to do with linking all existing data sources and management systems together in a coherent and efficient way, so that the in-dash information a driver sees is the same as the information the road authority traffic management team sees or someone using their smartphone to make travel decisions. TomTom co-chairs an Ertico platform on just this subject, called Traffic Management 2.0 (TM 2.0), where we are joined by automotive manufacturers, signal system makers, integrators, government authorities and other service providers. Ultimately, we need to create a seamless mobility information system which provides travellers with truly optimal choices, makes the best use possible of the available infrastructure and capacity and adds value to the economy and quality of life.
What is the current state of development? How concrete is the planning and implementation of other milestones?
I believe there are several parallel tracks, all converging in a fairly unplanned way. Automotive manufacturers, their suppliers, and smartphone manufacturers are pushing the envelope in terms of new high-quality services. Governments are adapting and modernising existing systems. But the response of industry and government is evolving, roles are changing. In the Netherlands for example, the government decided to stop expanding hardware detection systems on the roadway and make more use of private sector data instead. Finally, innovators such as Uber are also influencing the direction of change. Plus, the public is changing its behaviour and becomes much more demanding regarding information but also in terms of travel options. In the end, it will
be the public really determining how the system develops.
What is the role of the TM 2.0 Ertico innovation platform in this regard? How can we imagine it?
As described above, the TM 2.0 makes explicit the type of cooperation and integration that is needed to improve mobility in a comprehensive and efficient way, with the most benefit for the traveller. The platform exercises influence in three ways. We have example projects in cities across Europe which demonstrate in a transparent way how integration and cooperation across government and industry systems can work. Apart from that, we examine and discuss new business models which develop through the evolution of mobility, because as roles change, business models are needed that ensure rapid innovation and efficient new traffic management systems. Lastly, awareness that cooperative systems are today not only possible but desirable for the public, for business and for government needs to be created.
What impact has this alliance on the traffic management of the future?
The impact is hard to measure. Essentially, the TM 2.0 platform makes current changes and potential models very explicit and transparent. Perhaps some of the biggest benefits are coming from new alliances coming into existence through the platform discussions, the exchange of information, and related projects and events. The TM 2.0 concept is so logical that discussions and example projects will eventually lead a life of their own.
In early September, you have opened the new TomTom Traffic Centre in Amsterdam. What is the idea behind it?
The TomTom Traffic Centre in Amsterdam is a portal into our traffic information system. It provides real-time information for 52 countries to TomTom navigation devices, in-dash systems in automobiles, smartphones, fleet devices, many government authorities and countless other users. The idea is to give students, the public and even our own growing TomTom team insights into how we deliver our traffic information to current and potential clients.
How closely do you cooperate with the Dutch government with regard to the Centre?
The Traffic Centre itself does not include any direct cooperation with the Dutch government, but TomTom has been working with the government on projects involving traffic information and better use of the road infrastructure. TomTom and the Dutch Ministry of Infrastructure and the Environment share a common core goal: use innovation to reduce traffic congestion and delay, improve mobility and prepare for the future of automated driving. It is this shared vision that moved Minister Schultz van Haegen to open our Traffic Centre.
How do you see the future of mobility? As an expert, which scenarios can you factor in already today?
I see people becoming even more mobile than they are today. Furthermore, I think that mobility will be much more flexible and much more reliable than it is now. There is much discussion of a new generation that is less inclined to buy a car than previous generations. But that does not mean they are willing to be less mobile or more patient about unreliable travel times. On the contrary, I believe that as a society we need to look for new ways of being mobile and that we will be travelling even more frequently. That means, a truly integrated and efficient system includes on-demand services, shared vehicles, bicycles, public transport but also personal vehicles. At the same time, people will be walking and running more, also in combination with other modes. Public transport will be facing big challenges in the next few years and will need to adapt more quickly than ever before. Travel information will be much more unified and personalised but also much more intuitive and built into our daily lives in a way that is natural and easy to use.
Digital Transformation – A brief portrait of Osudio
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OSUDIO AND TOMTOM
For a successful consumer engagement journey, TomTom created a single point of truth (SPOT) for all product information. The PIM solution that was implemented by Osudio gathers all the information that are currently spread amongst different systems into one reliable central repository. Among other things, this increases brand consistency, reduces the chance of mistakes or duplication of information and allows consistent messaging.
Picture credit © TomTomTraffic