Just a few weeks after testing was completed in the ICT4CART German Pilot Site, we met with representatives from the City of Ulm. Located in the State of Baden-Württemberg in the southwest of Germany, the City of Ulm is a cultural and economic center, as well as a hub for traffic and transport and is famous for its ‘Science City‘, composed of four science parks, universities, enterprises and start-ups. Last but not least, the City of Ulm is one of the four high-value cases of ICT4CART.
- Meet the City of Ulm (Germany)
Ulm is a city in the State of Baden-Württemberg in the southwest of Germany. With a population of over 125,000 inhabitants and an area of 119 km2, it is the cultural and economic center of the surrounding area. Ulm is a traffic hub for A-roads and train connections. The City area has 481 km of roads, 326 km of which are run by the City and criss-cross the City and suburbs with over 80,000 motorized vehicles. Ulm has a historic city center, facing all the challenges modern traffic brings to a center with small streets and the need to offer parking spaces for both citizens and tourists.
The City of Ulm is responsible for traffic control, public transport, mobility information services and mobility planning.
- The City of Ulm in ICT4CART: what is your role in the project?
Ulm is one of the four high-value cases of ICT4CART, and there are several reasons for that. Its famous ‘Science City’, comprises four science parks, universities, enterprises and start-ups. One of the roles of the City is to sustain enterprises, universities and startups and facilitate excellent cooperation between science, industry and city administration. ICT4CART is the kind of cooperation we sustain.
Being responsible for traffic management, the City of Ulm offers the ICT4CART consortium the use of its roads, traffic lights and street lights for testing. For example, our partner Nokia runs a test network located in the City of Ulm and the surrounding area. This network covers many types of roads from motorways to small inner-city streets. Nokia uses radio technology LTE, while 5G New Radio had been tested in the second phase.
The City of Ulm also runs most of the parking garages and most of the parking spaces in the inner city. Since we are interested in having less traffic on our roads, we need to reduce traffic produced by people who are looking for a parking spot. Also, our partner BMW has listed the figures for parking space searches, which are enormous. As a consequence, we also need smart parking to reduce CO2.
Finally, the City of Ulm is interested in having fewer car accidents, fewer traffic jams and fewer deaths on its streets. That is why we are interested in the “virtual mirror” tested by the ICT4CART project.
- Which technologies have been tested in Ulm?
A use case for Smart Parking was tested in the City of Ulm: the City of Ulm provided data, from which BMW has developed algorithms for fleet management and ride-hailing. BMW has also combined the results with parking data provided by the City. Based on this, BMW has developed an application for on-demand fleet management.
The ‘Virtual Mirror’
Crossing an intersection with the help of an environmental model of the intersection fed by infrastructure sensor information is called a ‘virtual mirror’.
In the City of Ulm, the ‘virtual mirror’ is a pilot case used to increase the vision of the vehicle on the surrounding traffic. Ulm University had the lead on this pilot case which is situated in one of Ulm’s suburbs, while SWARCO was one supplier and producer of the road infrastructure.
Cameras and fixed-beam lidar sensors were mounted on municipal lampposts along the streets close to the junction area.
Ulm University could run its own test vehicles on all roads in real traffic conditions. They could use streets, street crossings, lamp posts and sensors.
Nokia, based in Ulm, tested various technologies within their existing Ulm network.
- Why was it important for the City of Ulm to participate in a project like ICT4CART?
Ulm is heading to be a Center of Innovation and Digital innovation.
To foster its transition into a smart city Ulm has pursued a Digital Agenda to help cultivate innovation while enhancing the city’s sustainability and increasing its investments‘ attraction.
Ulm has proven to be a successful incubator of innovation, having won the titles of ‘City of Future 2030’ and ‘Digital Municipality of the Future’ within the State of Baden-Württemberg . Ulm aims to be a model digital city in Germany and sees itself at the forefront of the digital transition. ICT4CART, with its European partners working together, is an important step in this direction.
Also, ICT4CART aims to develop solutions targeting issues the City of Ulm wants to address. We know that great parts of the traffic in our city is produced by traffic for parking spot search, and this brings pollution and traffic jams to our city. We are interested in sustaining a project that is developing a solution for smart parking.
- What have been the main challenges you have faced?
The greatest challenge we faced was Covid-19 and the unfortunate consequences of the pandemic. Nevertheless, even if there were delays, we are glad we could be helpful for the project and that all the goals could be reached.
But it would have been better if we could have had the chance to travel to the other three demo sites in Italy and Austria. In particular, we regret we could not meet the other city involved in the project, Verona (Italy). We know that sometimes we faced similar problems and that Verona carried out some pilot activities similar to ours. It would have been a chance to learn from each other in various ways, also for solutions beyond this project. We also missed the chance to have European meetings, which offer a great opportunity to get to know your European partners and their universities, enterprises etc. much better.
- From the City’s point of view, what potential impact could Covid-19 have on future actions related to connected and autonomous vehicle technology?
Covid-19 changed the habits of our citizens on traffic and transport. For example, shared mobility models do not work in times of social distancing. The use of sustainable public transport, such as trams and buses, declined because people did not feel safe there and social distancing had to be learned first. Those who normally used public transport preferred to use the car in winter or the bike instead. Covid-19 also changed the working habits: a high percentage of people worked remotely. This meant that fewer cars were used (and so traffic was reduced), but it also created ghost cities for a while.
In times of a pandemic individual cars can be a solution for hard times. They are also a solution for non-urban areas where public transport is not so convenient.
But, the world will look different after Covid-19 and we expect that most of the problems will be back again. Global warming will force us to change our behaviour and we will need the help of digital transition to reach our goals of zero CO2 emission in Europe.
Connected and autonomous vehicle technology is one aspect to sustain the European Green Deal.
‘The mobility of the future will need a combination of new concepts for vehicles, modified infrastructure, the use of digital solutions and the change of behaviour.
Prof. Michael Ortgiese, 2021 DLR (German Aerospace Center)
- Could you tell us more about the deployment of ICT4CART architecture in the City of Ulm? Did you obtain the results you were expecting?
Despite the challenges, all the needed research activities could be finalised and we know that the results of the project will help us in the future. What we miss is that due to Covid-19 we did not have the chance to have a face-to-face transnational final meeting with all our partners in Ulm. That would have been an extra added benefit to the project. Due to Covid-19 regulations, the final meeting of ICT4CART took place at the ITS World Congress in Hamburg on 15 October 2021.
Moreover, with the help of Ulm University, we will have the chance to join the ‘2021 IEEE Vehicular Networking Conference (VNC)‘. The conference will be only virtual. On Friday, 12th November the results of ICT4CART will be presented there.
- Anything else you would like to mention or highlight?
We see ICT4CART in the context of other projects in which the City of Ulm is involved. Ulm and its surrounding communities have recently won a German competition ‘Rettungsbürger/in und Smarter Rettungseinsatz‘ (‘Citizens for Rescue and Smart Emergency Rescue’). Eleven partners will develop a smart rescue system to save lives with the help of quick 5G. It will help fire brigades, rescue and recovery services in case of all-weather disasters or civil dangers when quick help and quick transmission of data is needed. We are glad to have again ICT4CART partners in this project.