September 19, 2022| to blog
Mobilidata: How data can make our traffic greener
Be-Mobile is a subsidiary of Proximus specializing in intelligent solutions for sustainable mobility. The company uses technology to help travelers reach their destination safely, smoothly and as comfortably as possible. In this article, CEO Jan Cools (LinkedIn profile) explains how Mobilidata, a Flemish government project, will make our transport run smoother and more sustainable.
Traffic jams. We all know that awkward feeling of being stuck in traffic when plans for the day dwindle and there’s nothing you can do about it. It was precisely this frustration that convinced me to start Be-Mobile fifteen years ago. My idea was that we could use data to monitor vehicles and better manage traffic to reduce congestion.
Fifteen years later, Be-Mobile is doing just that and much more: sending road users traffic information to their smartphones, automating truck tolls and making parking much easier with the 4411 mobile app. In short: we use data and technology to make mobility more pleasant and sustainable for everyone. This technology has evolved significantly over the past 15 years and will continue to do so, so we can expect great innovations over the next 15 years.
With the Mobilidata project initiated by the Flemish government, we are already taking a step towards these innovations. This project fits in perfectly with the European Mobility Week, which this year’s theme is “Better Connections”: after all, Mobilidata’s goal is to help road users to better adapt to each other and to the road infrastructure. We are currently using GPS data from smartphones for this, but we are also seeing a trend towards vehicles that already have this connectivity built in. There’s so much we can accomplish with these better connections and I’m happy to share a little insight below.
Intelligent transport: safer and more environmentally friendly
Today, most cars have sensors that tell you when you approach an obstacle, for example when parking or manoeuvring. But what if you could also get alerts on more dynamic factors while in the car? An approaching ambulance, an accident on the road ahead, a slow-moving maintenance vehicle, and so on. Currently, we usually only notice these situations when we are in the middle of them. But with connected vehicles, you would be warned in advance to better anticipate them. This is safer and also prevents traffic jams.
We could even go one step further and connect road users not only with each other but also with the road infrastructure. Think about the benefits of intelligent traffic lights that react to the current traffic situation or adapt to changing weather conditions. With Mobilidata we are working on the implementation of 350 such intelligent traffic lights in Flanders. These traffic lights can, for example, give priority to emergency services and public transport, and road users can be given information about the speed they need to operate in order to pass all traffic lights to green. The environment benefits immediately, because less braking and acceleration means fewer emissions.
The future of (public) transport in a networked world
Speaking of the environment: discussions about mobility and sustainability usually revolve around public transport. Encouraging more people to use public transport is of course an important initiative. However, it’s not a one-stop solution for every problem. In an urbanized area like Flanders, the car is a necessity for many people, especially those living outside the city centres. This urbanization and the resulting traffic jams are also one of the main reasons that Flanders and the Netherlands are such pioneers in the field of traffic data technology. We cannot stop the proliferation of cars; and the number of trips made is also increasing.
But that doesn’t have to be a problem. The advent of greener cars and innovative technologies like smart traffic lights are constantly reducing traffic pollution. The next step is the introduction of autonomous vehicles. That may seem a long way off to many, but the technology already exists, and data projects like Mobilidata are paving the way for the introduction of these autonomous cars. It is also evident that mobility is a service that is in high demand today: the popularity of car sharing and ride-hailing (driving with your own driver such as a taxi or Uber) is growing rapidly. And this trend will continue. In short: the boundaries between private mobility and “public” transport are blurring.
More road trips mean more traffic jams, but today’s technological innovations allow us to prepare for tomorrow’s problems. Not only traffic lights can be connected to road users: over time, the entire traffic system can be dynamically managed based on user data. Think variable speed limits, smart toll collection to guide user behavior, and live parking data so people know in advance whether they can park somewhere or not. These are all ways we can create a traffic situation that works for everyone: road users, residents and the environment.
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