Improving journey times, reducing delays, making trips safer by applying speed limits, reducing air pollution and protecting specific urban areas: this is all possible thanks to traffic management. Since the first traffic light in the 1900s, many things have changed. Today, thanks to  developments in ITS, users are able to calculate, predict and avoid traffic in different ways, benefiting from better aligned traffic information services and moving on from scheduled to on-demand driven mobility. However, in order to enhance  traffic information loops among mobility stakeholders, cooperation between them and a user-centric approach are required, as discussed during the latest ERTICO Academy Webinar with participation from SWARCO, ARMIS ITS, the Austrian Institute of Technology (AIT) and the European Commission Joint Research Centre.

Developments in traffic management during the past six years have brought greater interconnection of technologies and the engagement of more stakeholders, with increasingly more complex needs within the mobility ecosystem. The purpose of data exchange within the traffic management system and with  public and private stakeholders, is to make real-time traffic information available to all and to gain a clear picture of the situation on the road network. These information loops should ideally loop backwards to the traffic control and management points, operated by the decision makers: the public authorities.

“Cooperation between the public and private stakeholders in traffic management is a must, as neither of the two sides has all the information available. The public sector has the traffic management plans and the private sector should be aware of them so that they are implemented.” said ERTICO’s Director of Innovation & Deployment, Dr. Johanna Tzanidaki.  In discussing  the role of ERTICO’s Innovation Platform TM 2.0 on interactive traffic management, she said “Drivers or users are not interested in whether it is the public sector or the private service provider who has the data. Drivers and users just wish to know where and how to reach their destination in a safe, fast and efficient way. When we are driving, we need to be able to see the same traffic information, such as speed limits and road restrictions in our car by whatever means, either via a smart phone or a navigation device , as well as on the street via a variable message sign (VMS) or traffic sign.”

Closing the loop between traffic management and the user is how mobility should be better managed. Progress is certainly shifting from traffic management to travel management, explained Laura Coconea, Head of Innovation Office ITS Division at ERTICO Partner SWARCO AG. Traffic lights with air-quality detection and adapting to users that are concentrating on their phones instead of the road ahead are just some of the steps the traffic industry is taking in this direction.

The discussion touched on how mobility is evolving and how the user should be at the centre of both mobility services and policies. Considering the challenges faced when shifting from traditional procurement to service-based traffic management, Pedro Barradas, Chief Strategy Officer at ARMIS ITS, introduced the possibility of simulating urban environments. “Digitalisation is a flexible approach so  it can solve the issues that many cities are trying to address, whether it is fleet time optimisation or routing management, but also when considering the introduction of Cooperative, Connected and Automated Mobility (CCAM) to the existing infrastructure.” He agreed that governance is essential for organising mobility management. As cities reclaim public space, an urban mobility dashboard like the one ARMIS ITS has developed gives the possibility to cities to control their digital infrastructure.

The balance between the system and the user was further explained by Dr. Wolfgang Ponweiser, Senior Research Engineer at the AIT Austrian Institute of Technology.  “Acquired information about users’ demands is crucial for traffic management and services, and can be achieved by improving modelling and simulations,” he said. “These simulations can help traffic managers compensate for the lack of certainty in understanding human behaviour. Nudging or incentivising users can help plan, manage and regulate traffic. Ideally, the system (via an app, a navigation device or a VMS) should be guiding the user in her/his decisions and not the other way around. This is what ‘system-aware’ routing means”, he said, referring to when the system knows how to best distribute the use of different modes on the network so that a balance is achieved.

This concept was underlined by Dr. Biagio Ciuffo, Scientific Officer at the European Commission Joint Research Centre, who said that in contrast to the other transport networks, such as air and rail, the road network looks like it always has capacity. It certainly becomes congested, but users are not prevented from entering the network and using their vehicles, even if there are traffic bottlenecks. Research carried out by JRC focuses on the inclusion of the vehicle into the transport system and how to best manage demand and supply. Mr. Ciuffo pointed out that  increasing road capacity is not the solution and that the TM 2.0 concept works very well, as cooperation amongst stakeholders and guidance by the public authorities, who ideally act as an ‘orchestra conductor’, can provide the governance scheme needed for closing the loop on traffic data, reaching both users and the decision-maker. “With automation entering mobility fast, Europe needs a network of “Living Lab Cities” in which new technologies and governance models can be designed and tested with the direct engagement of citizens, who are an important part of the process and influence the technological and political output,” he said.

The ERTICO Academy once again offered an opportunity to ERTICO Partners and external mobility experts to share their valuable experiences and knowledge, but most importantly to facilitate the discussion between industry and academia. Everyone agreed on the steps forward that should be taken to achieve optimal traffic management: a user-centric vision and cross-sector collaboration for a governance scheme that allows a win-win-win for all.