Verona today hosted the conference “From barriers to free-flowing traffic: free-flow technology and systems to monitor transit”. The meeting was organised by A4 Mobility S.r.l. and Kapsch TrafficCom S.r.l., two leading companies in the field of ITS (Intelligent Transport Systems), in collaboration with the Verona Association of Engineers. ITS involves intelligent traffic management technology which will become commonplace in the future. The aim of the conference was to present the main characteristics and advantages of monitoring systems involving free-flowing traffic, suitable for avant-garde applications in different road traffic situations, including toll collection without vehicles having to stop at traditional motorway tollbooths, or the automated management of access to restricted traffic areas in town centres.
Speakers included Olga Landolfi, Secretary-General of TTS Italia, the industry association of reference for new traffic technologies; Paolo Rondo-Brovetto, Professor at Klagenfurt University; Paolo Balan, Technical Director at A4 Mobility; Andreas Hummer, General Manager at Kapsch TrafficCom Italia; Andrea Renso, Executive in charge of Transport management at Technital S.p.A.; Bruno Pezzuto, Mobility Manager for the Municipality of Verona and a spokesperson for Abertis. Prof. Federico Rupi, a permanent lecturer for the department of civil, chemical, environmental and material engineering at the University of Bologna, was moderator for the discussions, which focused on ITS and Free-Flow Systems in the Italian technological and regulatory context and regarding EU guidelines, as well as the many fields of application both for urban and inter-urban contexts.
A free-flow system in the context of a motorway is typically made up of portals placed along the carriageway, a number of kilometres away from each other. These portals are then fitted with cameras able to read vehicle number plates, and DSRC antennae which communicate with the devices installed on vehicle dashboards. The data collected is sent to a central IT system which calculates the toll based on the number of km actually covered, and manages the invoicing, debiting the amount due. This type of system has already been successfully implemented in Australia, Austria, Chile, Poland, the Czech Republic and the United States. “A4 Mobility first tested these systems internationally” commented the Technical Director Paolo Balan, “Above all over the course of this year we've been busy carrying out studies for the Turkish and US markets where there is a focus on and more widespread use of free-flow technology.
There are extremely attractive global growth prospects for this kind of technology, which can offer countless advantages to operators and drivers.” The advantages of free-flow systems for motorways were described in detail during the conference. Getting rid of tollbooths would reduce emissions as vehicles would no longer have to queue up and slow down, not to mention the huge saving in terms of the amount of land occupied and maintenance costs. It would also be easier to build motorway entrances and exits, promoting a more efficient use of the infrastructure. With a free-flow system, it is also easier to integrate safety features, infomobility and traffic planning, as the sensors that record the vehicles passing by are also able to collect information on the flow of traffic, including speed, vehicle types or traffic density. Paolo Rondo-Brovetto presented the regulatory aspects directly and indirectly involved with the introduction of free-flow systems. He focused in particular on the development of European and Italian legislation governing both the technical aspects and the administrative and economic issues involved with automated toll collection in a free market.
“Free-flow systems, which have begun to be launched in Italy in recent years, present a dual opportunity, both to encourage the technological modernisation of motorways and to adopt innovative solutions in line with international standards, also outside of the motorway network. Indeed, these systems can easily be extended to monitor traffic for safety reasons, to manage infomobility and for applications in towns and cities.
The introduction of free-flow systems in Italy could also potentially reduce ownership costs relating to toll systems and increase the competitiveness of the state system”, concluded Rondo-Brovetto.
These new technologies also create lots of advantages for city traffic management. Andreas Hummer, General Manager of Kapsch TrafficCom Italia, the first company to invent an automated management system for access to restricted traffic areas in the centre of Bologna, remarked: “Although free-flow systems have been technically possible for many years, it is only recently, thanks to the “smart city” and “smart mobility” concept, that we are really beginning to make the most of this technology, integrating all possible applications. In the future, on-board devices to pay for motorway tolls will be the same ones that we use to pay for congestion charges and to access the office car park and our garage at home. What’s more, this technology also forms the basis of autonomous driving, which has been discussed a lot recently. It therefore represents an important step forward to enable us to manage traffic in the future, which will be completely automated and safe”.