Vice Presidents Frederik Nordh and Dan Skiffington join CEO Trond Christensen on an examination of the role artificial intelligence and connected vehicles play in the future of safe, green, efficient transportation.
This compelling article from the industry publication Intertraffic World 2024 features the Q-Free perspective on cutting-edge ITS technology.
Smart Mobility: How AI and CVs are transforming ITS
Featured in the 2024 annual Showcase of Intertraffic World. Reproduced in full with permission of ITW.
Artificial intelligence and connected vehicles are making roads safer,
greener, and more efficient
If you’re part of the ITS industry, you’re accustomed to three key themes: safety, sustainability, and efficiency. That’s the ultimate goal the entire industry works towards: safe, uncongested travel with reduced emissions. Using innovative technologies to improve these aspects of traffic and transport is not a novel idea; it is something Q-Free has been doing since entering the ITS industry in 1984. Back then, artificial intelligence (AI) and connected vehicles (CVs) were science fiction. Today, AI and CVs in transport are a reality thanks to intelligent tolling systems and advanced traffic management.
AI and machine learning
AI, or the simulation of human intelligence by computers, and machine learning, the ability for software to train itself for better outcomes, are popular buzzwords in tech circles for a good reason—they represent a level of technology almost unimaginable in power and function. With increasing amounts of data and data sources generated today, intelligent transport must rely on AI and machine learning to handle significant amounts of data and decisions happening every second.
Enhancing vehicle classification
“We use AI in a focused way that allows it to be really great at its job,” says Fredrik Nordh, Q-Free’s EVP of tolling. “AI is built into our Intrada Insight image review software for extreme accuracy when identifying vehicles and license plates. The results are so precise agencies use them for tolling, billing, and enforcement. With this technology, there’s no longer a need for drivers to stop at a toll booth, keeping traffic moving and enhancing road safety.” Nordh adds. “We can accurately scan an in-vehicle tolling tag, read license plates from the road, or use AI to identify vehicles with a digital fingerprint, an image unique to each vehicle based on shape, plate numbers, colour, and more. It’s seamless as the vehicle moves at normal speeds.”
The major hurdle to enforcing road-use charging (RUC), where road users are automatically billed tolls for using a roadway, has traditionally been accuracy. With AI, vehicle classification exceeds benchmarks for billing and enforcement. In addition to identifying a vehicle by plate or fingerprint, AI has improved RUC by classifying electric vs fossil fuel vehicles, the number of axles, rare setups including towing, or even identifying hazardous materials placards.
AI-driven, intelligent systems even use machine learning to improve further. The systems use collected data and human verification input to train algorithms for better accuracy, efficiency, and decision-making processes.
Advanced traffic management systems (ATMS) can connect city centres, highways, and regions, allowing them to operate as one complete system. ATMS solutions, including Q-Free’s Kinetic Mobility, can manage systemwide data gathering, processing, and sharing across multiple devices and uses. This large-scale data aggregation and dissemination also has an additional benefit—it enables data sharing and connected vehicle-to-everything (CV2X) deployments, which serve as backbones for smart corridors, regions, or cities.
The near future holds limitless possibilities for transportation, including intelligent, self-driving vehicles that communicate with surrounding vehicles and infrastructure.
A morning commute in a connected city could involve little input from a driver, as your vehicle and navigation software automatically react to input from local traffic controllers. Routing around an accident or responding to congestion or weather alerts could be fully automated.
“We are at a unique time in ITS, where we are applying today’s technology and building the framework for smart cities,” says Dan Skiffington, EVP of traffic management for Q-Free. “There are huge volumes of data available from various sources, such as sensors, cameras, signals, and vehicles, that traffic management can use to make smarter decisions, whether manually by an operator or automatically through an ATMS system like Kinetic Mobility. Smarter decisions improve traffic flow, reduce congestion and emissions, and enhance safety for all road users, including cyclists and pedestrians.”
How CVs are transforming transportation
In Georgia, USA, a connected vehicle hotspot, the Georgia Department of Transportation uses cellular signals to communicate in CV2X systems that make up the Gwinnett County Smart Corridor project. The ambitious project features thousands of connected vehicle intersections that run Q-Free’s MAXTIME software at the intersection. These systems work together to improve emergency vehicle response times, prioritise green lights, and regulate traffic flow across an entire transportation corridor.
Connected vehicle technology isn’t just for morning commutes. In Europe, the MODI Project will enhance goods transport and logistics by supporting the implementation of connected, automated mobility solutions. Electric, driverless, fully automatic transport trucks leverage a network of sensors, data, and connected vehicle technology to demonstrate the future of automated transport, delivering goods from Rotterdam to Oslo in ways that human drivers cannot.
The future of ITS
Innovation in intelligent transport systems is a constant force driving the industry forward. The industry delivers on the shared goals of sustainable, safe, uncongested transport everywhere by actively participating in innovation, including ongoing collaboration with agencies, industry partners, and even among competitors.
“Today’s tech is shaking up the global ITS industry,” Nordh says. “When Q-Free started 40 years ago, the tech we see today didn’t seem attainable. Now, it’s a reality; we’re using AI right now. The thought of, ‘What will the next 40 years bring?’ is almost unimaginable.”
We look forward to 40 more years of industry-wide innovation and collaboration to deliver on the ultimate goals of intelligent transport: the safe, clean, free-flowing movements of data, goods, and people.