Steve Birdsall, CEO of Gaist, the world-leading provider of roadscape insight and intelligence services, explains how a collaboration with a like-minded Swedish disruptor and innovator is set to significantly advance road safety.
In the past decade, the role of data within the built environment has changed dramatically. An explosion in the information available to infrastructure asset owners and operators, the emergence of technologies and digital processes such as BIM and digital twins and advances in analytics, have transformed how we understand the world around us.
For those managing and interacting with our roads, this data revolution has unlocked vast benefits: Optimising network performance, driving efficiencies and - critically - improving safety.
The richer the level of information and insights available to roads decision-makers, the greater the depth of analysis, the better informed they are and the better positioned they are to respond to defects and challenges on the network.
As Jonathan Rosenberg, the former Senior VP at Google, famously said: “Data is the sword of the 21st century, those who wield it well, the Samurai.”
Advancing road safety
Today, a new development is set to further deepen our understanding of the network and facilitate a huge step forward in road safety.
Following extensive research and the exploitation of state-of-the-art technology, real-time road surface information (RSI) can now be fed into road maintenance systems and made accessible to those who need it.
Data captured from sensors within regular passenger vehicles can now be used to provide on-the-ground ‘live’ detail about road friction, road roughness, information about potholes and road bumps.
Its implications for the winter-market particularly are huge: Armed with this next-level of dynamic data - combined with other reliable data sources such as radar and satellite images - those responsible for managing our vital networks and keeping them open and safe during the winter period, will be far better informed and empowered to predict and plan their interventions.
Take gritting routes: Armed with this rich data, our knowledgeable and experienced winter service managers will have at their disposal far greater detail of how gritting routes are responding to treatment and how drivers are experiencing travelling on those gritted routes.
Fed into a winter service strategy and used to combine with and complement other winter specific features, this information can be deployed not just in one season but to drive continual improvement for future years.
Key questions - ‘What parts of the network should we treat? When should we treat them? What treatments should be carried out?’ - become immediately easier to respond to.
Decision making by Winter Duty Managers over when and how to treat the network has traditionally been based on Road Weather Information Systems, which though time tested, have well documented limitations.
Bringing global technologies to our UK roads market
NIRA Dynamics, the Swedish vehicle onboard analytics and road perception specialist and company behind the technology, has extensively trialled and tested it in Scandanavia and Northern European countries.
Now Gaist is working with this like-minded innovator and disruptor - whose customers include leading vehicle manufacturers such as Volkswagen, Honda, Volvo and Renault - to unlock the vast potential of this technology in the UK.
The tie-up forms part of our Global Partnerships Programme - a programme designed to bring the best global technologies available to the UK roads market.
So how does it work?
The real time datasets consist of a combination of tyre-road friction readings, ambient temperature and windscreen wiper speed from passenger vehicles traversing the road network. This is then used to create a set of map layers to give winter maintenance professionals access to a level of detailed
information with which to inform their decisions.
The readings are all mapped using GPS and timestamped and are never the result of data from one vehicle – instead, there is an established minimum threshold of vehicles from which data is drawn.
The real-time dynamic datasets will be accessible for the first time to local authorities and networks from Safecote, another Gaist partner, through its BM Roads System.
Advancing our mission
At Gaist, we have always been laser-focused on our mission: to provide the deepest and richest possible intelligence about our roads available anywhere in the world so as to support critical areas including the safety of the network. With this latest development, we are proud to continue to honour that commitment.
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