TransformingTransport, an EU-funded Big Data Value Lighthouse project, is designed to have a radiating effect on the entire transport and logistics sector. Currently, only one in five European transport and logistics companies explore the issue of big data further. The project focuses on different big data applications that help make transports more efficient and sustainable. It aims to show concrete, measurable and verifiable evidence of data value that can be achieved in mobility and logistics. In our interview, Michael Schygulla, who is managing the TransformingTransport project on the PTV side, talks about the project and PTV Group’s tasks as a member of the consortium.
Compass: Big Data – everyone has heard about it, but many still do not really know exactly what they can do with the massive amounts of data. Analysing these data records and combining them intelligently for transport and logistics – as TransformingTransport does – is not only an exciting task, but probably one that is tackled for the first time, isn’t it?
Michael Schygulla: In view of the large scale, it’s definitely the first project of this kind. We are a total of 47 partners from nine different countries. This strong consortium consists of leading stakeholders from the transport, logistics and information technology sectors who will look at all aspects of transport. This includes the movement of people and goods in urban and rural areas, using all kinds of transport modes – from road and rail to air, maritime and inland waterways. Several pilot projects will be carried out within the scope of this large project. Here, the focus will be on the implementation of practice-based examples that demonstrate the value of big data in the field of mobility. So it’s not just about research, but mainly about demonstration. And we will of course also deal with the aspect of how big data can help reduce cost and environmental impact while increasing transport efficiency.
Compass: These are quite a few tasks for a project lasting two and a half years.
Michael Schygulla: Yes, indeed, but the benefits of big data are really huge for the transport and logistics sector. Estimates show that it would be possible to save approximately 450 billion euros and avoid 380 megatons of CO2 emissions. The sooner we know how this may function and what needs to be done, the better.
And of course we will use the time well. TransformingTransport will address seven pilot domains of major importance for the mobility and logistics sector in Europe: Smart highways, sustainable vehicle fleets, proactive rail infrastructures, ports as intelligent logistics hubs, efficient air transport, multi-modal urban mobility and dynamic supply chains. These domains are subdivided into 13 projects and individual work packages. We at PTV are involved in two pilot projects that focus on Sustainable Connected Trucks and Integrated Urban Mobility.
Compass: Let’s first look at Connected Trucks. What is it about and how does PTV contribute to this initiative?
Michael Schygulla: We are working on the Sustainable Connected Trucks pilot project in partnership with the logistics service provider JDR, TomTom and the Fraunhofer Institute for Computer Graphics (IDG). Our aim is to enrich planning and optimisation tools for fleet managers with data and information on traffic that is of particular importance for HGVs. Customers always expect 100% on-time delivery. However, in daily business, it is often difficult for logistics service providers, fleet managers and HGV drivers to ensure planning reliability and punctual delivery. This is also due to the fact that the infrastructure has often reached its limits, especially in urban areas, at international ports, border crossings or other logistics hotspots. Even though HGV drivers can access current traffic information and forecasts via their navigation systems, they often do not get any HGV-specific traffic information. Or the quality and format of the data provided are not appropriate for HGV routing or planning applications.
The Sustainable Connected Trucks pilot project is based on a big data approach, which helps obtain additional information that can be used for precise routing and for planning systems. To this end, it is important to estimate the traffic flow along the truck routes and to collect and analyse data concerning logistics hotspots. This also includes the processing of satellite imagery as another source of data used for the analysis of infrastructure sectors that are particularly relevant for logistics. In these pilot projects, we thus collect and analyse data on the current status and the changes at a specific location.
Compass: Could you give us one or two examples of your project work?
Michael Schygulla: TomTom provides us with their fleet movement data analyses through which we want to enhance truck-specific information provided by the systems. Fraunhofer provides the satellite data and evaluations that allow us to gain insight into logistics hotspots or specific border crossings, especially into lane-specific subtleties and differences. They are of particular interest as they are not included in conventional traffic information systems. For example, when there are longer waiting times for HGVs at border crossings due to handling that do not affect passenger cars. A standard traffic information system is unable to provide information on this kind of delay, as it cannot identify lane-specific details. We will use these additional analyses and data records in our systems for route planning and control. These are just two of many building blocks that – in their entirety – will be of great value to fleet managers.
Compass: What are the challenges that the Urban Mobility project has to cope with?
Michael Schygulla: Urban traffic management centres ensure smooth traffic flow within urban transport networks. However, as they do not have visual contact with all roads, they do not always have the latest updates on the current traffic situation or incident. Here, a more precise collection and analysis of information are required in order to provide road users with all the information they need, and thus ensure smoother traffic flows. This refers not only to information on specific routes, but also to data on optimisation of parking and loading facilities that are of particular interest for vehicles used for delivery purposes.
As part of this pilot, a transport model will be adapted to fit the needs of the City of Valladolid in Spain. It will be based on a range of current and historical traffic data in order to provide better traffic forecasts concerning the traffic volumes in the various districts, depending on the time of day. As a result, different delivery scenarios can be analysed for the downtown area. In real life, this helps improve the flow of traffic and punctuality of transport in city centres and reduce environmental impacts due to optimised routing. Together with CARTIF, TomTom, LINCE and the City of Valladolid, we are working on these future-oriented solutions.
Compass: So, what’s next?
Michael Schygulla: In March, we had a two-day meeting with the work package managers and are now in the process of completing the pilot’s design. And then it’s time for practice: First individual demonstrations and model results will be available as early as September.
As part of Horizon 2020, Transforming Transport received around EUR 15 million in European Commission funding. 47 European transport, logistics and information technology stakeholders are involved in this project.
Project management: Rodrigo Castiñeira (INDRA)
Project duration: 01.01.2017 – 30.06.2019