Using smart services to optimize the use of infrastructure

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How do you improve road, waterway and railway accessibility in the Netherlands if traffic levels are increasing, but funds and the space to build new infrastructure aren’t? Well, you use smart technology and you give a leading role to the behavior of ‘smart’ travelers. 

Interview with Caspar de Jonge - Ministry of Infrastructure and the Environment
Article from Objective 23, 2015

Since 2011, the ‘Beter Benutten’ (Optimizing Use) program has been implementing a package of more than three hundred and fifty measures. And this program is becoming increasingly important – certainly in a situation in which the economy is recovering, as are traffic levels. “‘Beter Benutten’ is mainly focused on smart services that optimize the use of existing networks and allow their users to take responsibility,” says Caspar de Jonge, program manager ITS Beter Benutten at the Ministry of Infrastructure and the Environment. “The approach of ‘Beter Benutten’ is attractive: result-oriented, short lead times and problem-focused. And it takes traveler behavior as its starting point for solutions; this is why we’ve been analyzing behavior. What kind of traffic is getting stuck in traffic jams and why, why do motorists vary their speed, etc. Is there no other and better way of doing this? Knowing what causes behavior makes it possible to create individual tailor-made solutions or to influence choices. And constant monitoring is necessary to measure whether assumptions and expectations actually translate into results.”

Personalized services

The ‘Beter Benutten’ approach in the ITS part of the program focuses on applying smart intelligence during travel. Over the coming few years, governments will increasingly acquire a regulatory role, and will be providing frameworks. This gives businesses space to become active within those frameworks. Caspar: “We’re interested in what technology can offer road users, haulers, shippers, lease companies and inland navigation companies in the form of personalized services. As well as what it can offer policy makers and road managers.” He says technological innovation contributes to new possibilities where partners in value-chains adapt their role. New technologies, for instance, lead to improved traffic flow and higher air quality at lower costs. “Thus solutions for speed advice, shockwave detection, lane use and merging directly offer added value to the user. But also to the road managers.”

Cooperative

“So far we have been focusing mainly on relatively small trajectories, or we’ve deployed one or two use cases.” Caspar mentions the examples of the projects on the A67 (Brabant in-car III) and A58 (Spookfiles) highways, which clearly illustrate the operation and the effect of the program. They also demonstrate that intensive cooperation between business and government bodies is perfectly viable and delivers a lot of knowledge, insight and results. Caspar continues: “In the A58 project we still have to take the step towards rolling out cooperative services (September 2015), but the foundation – so how we’re going to do this together – is there. And the cooperative architecture, which was developed in conjunction with Technolution, for instance, forms the basis for further progress in the context of ‘Beter Benutten’.” The first steps towards cooperative driving through public-private partnership have already been taken. In the Innovation Center in Helmond, traffic managers and businesses are working together to solve issues such as what will change in traffic and how the road manager can perform his public duties better though the input that private companies can give. But it’s also applicable to waterways: “We make data from bridges and sluices accessible so that it can be translated into privately developed services. In this way insight into the traffic flows on the road and on inland waterways can be improved, and users can receive optimal speed and route advice.”

Measurable proof

The effects of ‘Beter Benutten’ that we want to realize during the coming few years include quicker terminal handling, fewer freight truck accidents, fewer delays if you are driving to a concert or happen to be passing a stadium like Gelredome. And lower transport and fuel costs for employers. In addition, the program’s approach and solutions are processed in the form of a ‘Route map Better Informed on the Road’. Caspar continues: “The strategic framework is there already. It’s currently down to demonstrating the added value that this has for road managers and policy makers: how many data loops can be made redundant because we can achieve the same or a better traffic image using other data sources? Can we also display red crosses above road lanes on dashboards? Can we phase out the numerous physical and electronic signs and panels? The quicker we show measurable proof of these things, the faster policy and investment will be adapted.”

Scaling up and joining together

‘Beter Benutten’ is going to continue as ‘Beter Benutten Vervolg’. “The first three years were too short for fundamental change in government bodies and in the private sector to take effect, so we have been given the opportunity to continue for another three years,” Caspar explains. “We’ll be consciously scaling up to user groups and areas and we’ll be stimulating more joint functionalities.” Caspar sees potential in this area. For instance in the perspective of autonomous vehicles on the one hand and shrinking governments on the other. This creates more space for Intelligent Transport Systems (ITS). Although there are a number of conditions: “Players have to be able to act together quickly on a local or national level. And need to keep a close eye on international developments, for instance in relation to technical standards and the position of OEMs. But also, of course, coming up with appropriate solutions to social issues such as privacy and security; solutions that will muster acceptance in society. We will be looking to linking up to the road maps of businesses that already have the ambition to offer new functionalities and services and to grow. But also to international road maps, for instance of Car2Car Consortium. You can only do this by demonstrating concrete added value: it’s your choice as a city: you can either spending hundreds of thousands or even millions of euro on extending or purchasing a PRIS system. Or you can translate your dynamic parking data into apps and navigation services for a few thousand euro.”

Technology as a service

‘Beter Benutten’ will continue to develop for the time being: “We will focus even more on accelerated application and sustainable further development after 2017.” Caspar argues that knowledge, methods and choices need to be shared as widely as possible, in an environment that newcomers and new services can easily adapt to. The various businesses and government bodies therefore have to learn to think in terms of services and target groups. And to think about the extent to which these groups of road managers, employers, fleet owners et cetera will be able to purchase technological solutions as a service to reduce their own costs, to improve sustainability and add ease and comfort. This demands taking risks and initiative, being creative, thinking in terms of operating agreements and entering into partnerships with other businesses. But also with government bodies. The public market is changing already: from ‘ownership and management of technology’ to ‘acquiring services and sharing responsibility, opportunities and risks’. “The need of users for smart services will only increase,” Caspar predicts. The playing field and the number of players continues to grow, and this means the mix of interests, opportunities and wishes will also continue to increase. He laughs: “It won’t make my diary any emptier, but it’s a challenge and it’s worth the effort!”

Contact:

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