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Safer and more environmentally friendly motorways | Digitization | Technology

Increasing traffic, reducing the impact on the environment and optimizing road safety. These are the three great challenges that the mobility of the future will present. To respond to them in the most efficient way possible, the international highway management group Abertis has signed a collaboration agreement with the technology giant IBM. For three years, they will work together to explore and develop transformative ideas around a program they have called Innovation garage.

Four projects are already underway aimed at improving the experience of customers who use the Abertis toll roads in the near future, offering a safer, more comfortable, sustainable trip adapted to their needs.

Artificial intelligence, greater security. It is the innovative key. Preventing pavement degradation and optimizing road maintenance is one of the first steps to increase road safety. To this end, within this program, we are working on a model for constant monitoring of the condition of the road surface. In this way, infrastructure maintenance needs can be predicted with greater precision and preventive actions and interventions can be optimized.

In the work of the first phase of the project, focused on this monitoring system, the use of artificial intelligence applied to image recognition plays a relevant role in analyzing the state of the floor and identifying possible changes. Acceleration sensors will also be used to measure vibrations and analyze that information.

Later, the data obtained on the conditions of the pavement and its evolution will be used to feed and train models and algorithms that will help to predict its future evolution.

The objective is to minimize the risk of accidents and improve the conditions of the pavement, which results in both travel comfort and safety

Antonio Durán, Global Head of Innovation at Abertis

A better maintenance program will allow to improve the interventions. “The objective is to maximize the availability of the highway, minimize the risk of accidents, both for our clients and for our workers, and improve the conditions of the pavement, which in turn results in both travel comfort and safety” , says Antonio Durán, Abertis Global Head of Innovation.

During winter, the need to improve safety and efficiency becomes extreme. The team of Innovation garage It is also analyzing a system that minimizes the impact, both on the environment and on traffic, of the winter operations that take place every year in anticipation of snowfall on the highways.

Through different data sources, such as weather prediction systems, road temperature models or real-time information on the use of fluxes, that is, the salt or brine that is used to melt the snow and ice accumulated in the roads, create “a predictive model 12-24 hours ahead that makes high-precision recommendations” to their operations centers, who coordinate road actions and activate action teams. With this system, in addition to promoting greater safety for drivers, the impact on the environment is reduced, “since fluxes, used in excess, can be harmful”, admits the head of Abertis.

Geolocation and end of barriers

Another of the projects under development within this Abertis program uses geolocation technology and telematic payment systems to eliminate barriers and thus facilitate mobility to any kind of vehicle, including, in the near future, to connected and autonomous cars.

It is one more of the different initiatives of the operator to promote intelligent highways in which there is a cooperative communication of technology and service between the vehicle and the infrastructure (V2X).

The fourth project designed between the two companies is based on the use of big data to better understand customer behavior and offer customized solutions. Here, methods are being explored to, for example, extend the use of barrier-free toll systems. It also seeks to develop an advanced system for the detection of non-payments that makes it easier for administrations and operators to apply this type of solutions in the future with the same final objective of eliminating toll barriers.

The suppression of these stops is not only more comfortable for the driver. It is also positive for the environment, since polluting emissions produced by vehicles are saved when stopped.

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