Opportunities and challenges
SOCRATES2.0 is paving the way for the next generation of traffic management. On the path ahead lay several opportunities that facilitate or accelerate the concept of interactive traffic management. There are also challenges and bottlenecks, which can delay or even hinder some envisioned goals. When starting SOCRATES2.0, the partners identified these opportunities and challenges with the knowledge that addressing them all in this project would go far beyond the scope. However, several crucial reflections on these opportunities and challenges were identified when implementing interactive traffic management in real-world environments. These are detailed in the SOCRATES2.0 Consolidation Report and are summarised here.
Even with accessible data of good quality, using a standard for data exchange in a harmonised way is vital for interoperability and scalability across users and deployments. This saves deployment efforts and increases acceptance by (potential) data re-users. However, working with a standard that is not commonly used is challenging. Fostering and improving harmonisation across Europe is key to tackling the issue and enabling a further roll-out of interactive traffic management.
Availability of data
In interactive traffic management, data availability, data quality and exchange are the cornerstones for successful implementation. Data and information need to be available about any transport infrastructure element and from any corresponding stakeholder. However, looking at medium and small-size municipalities in Europe, traffic management-related information is not always digitalised sufficiently or even at all. In this context, stronger support and investment are an on-going requirement for the technological advancement of the transport network and related authorities, such as via sensors and TMCs.
Data availability is also essential for impact-driven approaches, where the involved stakeholders are incentivised to contribute and their successful operation is measured. This relates to data and information about the efficiency and reaction of road users in terms of traffic management measures. The SOCRATES2.0 partners see this as a relevant topic for future activities, such as examining whether frameworks and mechanisms to make end-user-based and service-provider-based data available in a wider scale is feasible.
Product life cycle
Reflecting on the implementation of the SOCRATES2.0 pilots shows that not all technical aspects are ready for interactive traffic management.
Existing TMCs, especially the older ones, sometimes struggle to deal with new interfaces or use and process new data, mainly because of the old software architectures. In the worst-case scenario, this could impact the Europe-wide roll-out of interactive traffic management solutions. A major observation was that using existing standards helps overcome connectivity issues and helps interact with third parties in a standardised way.
Another technical bottleneck is the still very limited penetration rate of connected cars with services of suitable capabilities to interact with traffic management and TMC’s. This makes it almost impossible to measure the impact of interactive traffic management solutions and so creates a barrier to promoting solutions. Also, product life cycle management from connected vehicle services need to be considered. A significant run-in period is needed before new services can be integrated into a commercial offering.
Return on investment
Public and private parties both need economic justification for investments in technical infrastructure and additional data sources or services extensions. SOCRATES2.0 therefore places a strong emphasis on identifying the win-win-win for all involved parties (public, private, and not to forget the end user) as early as in the pilot preparation phase. All parties agreed that a convincing win-win-win situation was needed to appeal to parties to invest or adopt interactive traffic management solutions.
The lack of appropriate business models is the main obstacle for the successful introduction of interactive traffic management solutions.
Several approaches were discussed:
- Most promising is the impact-driven business model for the Coordinated Approach cooperation models. In this model, all involved parties are remunerated based on their contribution to achieving commonly agreed targets. At the Antwerp pilot site, SOCRATES2.0 successfully developed and applied this approach but the very specific local conditions made the model possible here.
- SOCRATES2.0 also implemented data exchange as a basic approach for a business model. It should be noted that this was possible due to the specific pre-commercial environment in which partners operated, and additional contractual agreements may be needed outside pilot situations.
- Sharing a common view allows for a specific approach, where all parties have access to the same information and can distribute this information to their customers. The result is a uniform state of knowledge at the end-user level. The Environmental Zone Information use case, as implemented at the Amsterdam pilot site, demonstrated the added value of the information provided by the road authorities, incorporated into the applications of the private service providers and thus maximising the reach to the road users.
Further work is needed and details of the follow-up activities are described in the SOCRATES2.0 Consolidation Report.
When it comes to data privacy, SOCRATES2.0 partners learned quickly that General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) measures can restrict service providers from measuring service usage and impact. Tracking people and their behaviour is a very sensitive topic and requires the consent of the end user. Services providers have different approaches for the topic and finding a suitable one for interactive traffic management will be a prerequisite for the further elaboration of impact-driven business models. The road authorities expect transparent information on impact for their money. Getting prior consent is therefore recommended before starting projects that require information on individual user behaviour. This will not only increase user acceptance but also limit the risks of project execution.
Faulty or inaccurate data or information and malfunctioning systems can have a severe impact on service execution in interactive traffic management. It can lead to legal and liability implications for the actors involved, and in the worst-case scenario, result in complicated legal trials and high costs. This is especially important for use cases providing legally binding information. The liability aspect needs further elaboration and is expected to be a complex topic. It involves multiple public and private stakeholders and may include several communication channels with different responsibilities.
Data ownership could also present a challenge in the ecosystem of interactive traffic management. Answering questions like who owns, can access, uses and is liable for the data may become more complex if parties have a third party aggregating their data to create a common view. A legal framework may be required to avoid misunderstandings and cover the liability and rights of sharing content. It is strongly recommended this aspect be further explored and suitable solutions be found for interactive traffic management. Not doing this could jeopardise successful implementation.