Industry Insights

The Future of Travel on Digital Highways

Highways are getting as interconnected as the people who use them.

Highway infrastructure is backbone of any economy. The connection between the development of highways and economic growth has been well understood for centuries. But the connection between the digitalization of society and highways is just being explored. Highways are becoming more instrumented, with energy efficient sensors that are also context aware, cheap and built with more processing capabilities. There are also data from connected vehicles, as well as third party weather, traffic flow and pollution data. Highways connecting our nations are becoming digital, getting as interconnected as the people who use them. This is completely changing the nature of travel.

Big Data Challenge

Data which are being collected and exchanged on highways are not just well structured sensor data, but also unstructured data like video feeds, social media posts, geospatial data or various types of hyper local data. This growing volume of data, combined with an increased variety of data protocols and formats and the need to access data in real time, is putting the big data challenge in the middle of IT strategy of Highways Operators.

This big data challenge also changes the focus of highway operators from exclusively using descriptive analytics (using algorithms and historical data to understand what happen in the past) to advanced analytics (leveraging real-time data to be able to run what-if scenarios) and into cognitive analytics (being able to analyze large amounts of unstructured data, leveraging artificial intelligence). More advanced analytics leads to a less congestion, less accidents, less pollution and better mobility service.

Digital Twin

This level of highway digitalization paves the road for creating a “digital twin of the highway,” a virtual model pairing the virtual and physical worlds. It relies on sensor data, powerful visualization and artificial intelligence to perform the predictive and prescriptive maintenance of roads, tunnels or bridges. This digital twin makes infrastructure maintenance more efficient. It provides a good platform for processing the vehicle-to-infrastructure communication and enables highways to prepare for the roll-out of autonomous vehicles.

Challenge for Highway Operators

Digitalization of society is not the only challenge faced by Departments of Transportation and National Road Administrations. The increased traffic volume and aging existing infrastructure are also pushing Highway Operators to transform. Highway Operators have a need to build new road infrastructure more quickly, operate the infrastructure more efficiently and safely, make highways future proof and integrate highways into Mobility as a Service (MaaS) solutions addressing the mobility in our cities and nations more holistically. MaaS will allow Highway Operators to tap into additional revenue from data they are collecting and become a mobility service provider of future digital highways.

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CTO - Transportation and National Infrastructure

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