Will digitization improve our mobility? Will there eventually be fewer traffic jams?
‘I anticipate that we’ll eventually know the best time to travel from A to B. Smart vehicles - autonomous vehicles, in due course - and smart roads will enable safety to be improved and ensure that traffic density can be distributed more evenly, hopefully therefore reducing the incidence of traffic jams and reliable journey times. Intelligent software will convert data from all (road) users and the roads themselves to produce useful, reliable information which can be read on a tablet-like device’s screen in the vehicle. In a decade’s time we won’t know any different. Then you’ll get a notification from your agenda on your device stating what time you need to leave in order to arrive at your appointment exactly on time. The first steps are already being made now. In the case of the new Tesla, for example, you can choose to order extra sensors which can be used to activate the aforementioned function.
Incidentally, the digitization of our infrastructure started years ago with the introduction of the dynamic traffic management system, recognizable to road users as the dot matrix signs over the road.
Among other benefits, digital systems also make our tunnels safe. Consider in this regard cameras, public address systems and intercom equipment. Lurking behind these systems are many miles of cabling, complex computer servers and software platforms. The systems we have developed in-house can be operated for each tunnel in decentralized fashion from the traffic centre or locally at the tunnel itself. We flag up and remedy technical faults remotely from our service centre in Eindhoven. In many cases the road traffic manager won’t notice this fault, because we have already remedied it remotely. This prevents tunnels being closed for protracted periods and the accompanying delays, and it contributes to increasing system uptime. Our software system is currently operating in the Keteltunnel, Salland-Twentetunnel, Markt-Maastunnel and the five national traffic centres run by Rijkswaterstaat.
Digitization is also helping us when it comes to efficiently predicting structural maintenance. Sensors on bridges and in buildings, for instance, are continuously amassing data on such things as displacement, temperature, corrosion, the forces in civil engineering projects and supports or expansion joints.
The threat of failure or extreme wear and tear are flagged up in timely fashion. And we’re on it straight away. Preventive replacement of a worn component prevents unexpected repair work, like in the case of the emergency repair of the Merwedebrug on the A27 in 2016.’