editorial

Three smart responses to transport-related challenges

November 7, 2016

By Kiousi Akrivi, OPTIMUM project manager

Urban growth — and especially rapid growth — places enormous strains on existing traffic and transport infrastructure. Failure to respond effectively and to adapt to these new pressures has several negative consequences, including dangerous levels of air pollution; congestion and delays; an increased risk of accidents; and diminished quality of life. One obvious response is to build more roads to accommodate the growing number of vehicles, but this is both extremely costly and environmentally destructive. A better, “smarter” option is to find ways to get optimal use out of existing infrastructure, and this is at the heart of what the OPTIMUM project is all about.

OPTIMUM aims to achieve its challenging goals by incorporating and advancing state-of-the-art research in several areas, including transport and traffic modelling and forecasting; travel behaviour analysis; personalised traveller information for multi-modal mobility; system-aware optimisation; real-time big data processing; data management and fusion; predictive analysis; adaptive charging and incentive schemes; and persuasive technologies and enhanced existing technological solutions.

The proposed OPTIMUM solutions will be tested thoroughly over the course of three pilot studies to be carried out in different parts of Europe. Each of the pilot studies addresses a different aspect of the OPTIMUM approach to the transportation-related problems outlined above. Following the test period, the solutions can be tweaked as needed. If all goes well, these solutions can then be implemented on a general and wider basis.

Pilot 1 – Proactive charging schemes for freight transport (Portugal)

Road networks cost a great deal of money to build and maintain, and tolls are a direct means of exacting payment from the actual users of a given road or a section of motorway. Heavy vehicles that use roads on a daily or regular basis contribute most to the wear and tear of the road network, and, perhaps, should bear the heaviest burden of the cost of doing so. A fair division of tolls can be achieved by dynamic charging schemes. In this unique pilot, OPTIMUM will look into a wide range of variables to help establish a flexible toll-charging mechanism that will not only be more fair, but encourage trip options to produce a further set of desirable outcomes — namely, to reduce cost per trip; prevent or limit the risk of delay; shrink emissions; and diminish road impact. (For further details, click here.)

Pilot 2 – Multi-modal routing (UK, Slovenia, Austria)

This pilot study is being carried out in three distinctly different European metropolitan areas: Birmingham (UK), Ljubljana (Slovenia) and Vienna (Austria). By using available data and persuasive technology to influence travellers’ behaviour, the aim is to appraise the differences encountered in each environment and context in order to produce a tool that is transferable to other cities that are aiming to improve their mobility. (For further details, click here.)

Pilot 3 – Smart motorhomes (Slovenia)

Motorhome caravanning is a holiday-season activity that is growing in popularity throughout Europe. One motorhome manufacturer, Adria, produces outstanding vehicles that come equipped with a wide range of sensors and other technologies. This pilot study explores how such vehicles can provide intelligent assistance to drivers to deal with the complexities of multi-sensor environments, especially during long-distance and cross-border trips. The motorhomes control 60 separate parameters. They make possible prediction, warning and management in relation to energy efficiency, navigation, safety and comfort, and also offer other resource management features. The pilot study test fleet will consist of at least 18 Adria campers with full sensor setups. (For further details, click here.)

By adopting a number of innovative approaches using a wide range of innovative communication technologies, the OPTIMUM project hopes to open up new possibilities for smarter vehicle use; increase the use of multi-modal public transport systems and healthy transport alternatives; and reduce levels of air pollution, congestion and commuter waiting times.