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Major investments in transportation infrastructure are already happening in many countries around the world, as governments work to facilitate travel and commerce. In China, more cement has been poured in the last three years than the United States used in the entirety of the 20th century. In countries with long standing infrastructure, the need to replace or upgrade aging roads and bridges is providing a perfect platform to investigate investment in resilient infrastructure that is capable of adapting to changing environments, and leveraging technology can help to achieve that goal.

In countries with long standing infrastructure, the need to replace or upgrade aging roads and bridges is providing a perfect platform to investigate investment in resilient infrastructure that is capable of adapting to changing environments, and leveraging technology can help to achieve that goal.

Connected Versus Autonomous

Autonomous and connected vehicles are often talked about in the same breath, but they are in fact different technologies. Autonomous vehicles don’t interact with one another. There is no cooperation or exchanging of data because each vehicle sees and reacts to the world around it on its own. Connected vehicles, however, work as a network with other vehicles and devices along the road. The true value for autonomous vehicles is when the two technologies are combined, so that shared information can be used to facilitate greater efficiency. “The impact of C/AV is enormous,” explains Scott Shogan, Connected/Automated Vehicle Market Leader, Transportation Strategic Consulting, at WSP in Detroit. “IT and data management is far beyond what transport agencies are used to dealing with. They need to be ready to implement technology.” Autonomous and connected vehicles will be equipped with real-time optimal progression, which will allow them to see congestion problems and to determine optimal routes for reaching a destination. C/AV will also provide information on road hazards before they are encountered.

The true value for autonomous vehicles is when the two technologies are combined, so that shared information can be used to facilitate greater efficiency.

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“The impact of C/AV is enormous,” explains Scott Shogan, Connected/Automated Vehicle Market Leader, Transportation Strategic Consulting, at WSP in Detroit. “IT and data management is far beyond what transport agencies are used to dealing with. They need to be ready to implement technology.”
Autonomous and connected vehicles will be equipped with real-time optimal progression, which will allow them to see congestion problems and to determine optimal routes for reaching a destination. C/AV will also provide information on road hazards before they are encountered.

Intelligent Roads and Bridges

In the short term, transport agencies should look at implementing technologies that will assist them with managing infrastructure maintenance and planning. “You can’t invest in everything at once. What should come first when thinking about a connected world depends on the individual situation at each transport agency,” emphasizes Gianluca Barletta, Head of Smart Consultancy at WSP.

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Transportation Goes Digital

As digital infrastructure becomes a mission critical function, transportation authorities will need to enhance the capacities of their data management and communications networks. This is a significant risk for many agencies who have not yet prepared to cope with the accompanying requirements, like data sharing agreements, privacy policies, and IT/network security.

How much do we expect roadside infrastructure to change? The answer will vary depending on region and other unique factors in every organization. It is certain, however, that the introduction of technologies aimed at improving safety and efficiency will be an ongoing process.

This is not the beginning of technology integrating into infrastructure. Since the early 2000s, for example, de-icing systems have been incorporated into bridges. In Minnesota, an automated anti-icing treatment strategy “significantly improved roadway safety and resulted in a 68% decline in winter car crashes.” Installing the bridge anti-icing system also improved productivity by lowering material costs and enhancing winter maintenance operations throughout the district.

Whether talking about conductive concrete or other systems, technology is already available to help improve safety and enhance the efficiency of infrastructure management. “You have to be careful; you don’t want to waste your money by investing in a technology that will not, in the end, be useful in the future. That is why it is important to stay informed and start collecting data,” adds Gianluca Barletta.

The deployment of automated and connected vehicles provides an opportunity to adapt our infrastructure to a connected world. In doing so, however, we need to ensure that they also contribute to building a more resilient world.

The Following are Some Examples of What Lies Ahead:

 

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Pavement

If every vehicle transmits a signal when it hits a pothole, transport agencies would receive detailed information on road conditions. In the short term, it will provide information that would help fix immediate problems. In the longer term, it may also help contribute to building better roads.

 
 

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WEather

If every vehicle transmits a signal when its traction control functions are activated in winter or in rain, then transport authorities will be able to determine when roads need to be salted in specific areas.

 

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Pricing

Having precise, real-time information regarding travel conditions will enable the introduction of effective congestion pricing models.

 

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Planning

Obtaining optimal data will also assist in building more flexible transportation modelling. In an automated world, vehicles can drive much closer together, operating in a train mode and exchanging information along the way. That will not only increase the efficiency of current highways, but also perhaps reduce the need to build more roads.


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