Somebody who wants to make mobility fit for the future must act in a forward-looking fashion. This is why we at PTV engage in numerous national and international research projects for the transport and traffic sector. Brand new on board the PTV research team are Jasmin Graf and Charlotte Fléchon. In an interview, both report how exciting it is to be so close to the future of mobility.
Compass: Charlotte, Jasmin, how does one actually become a researcher?
Jasmin (laughs): That’s a good question. I am innately an industrial engineer. During my studies at the Karlsruhe Institute of Technology, I specialized in the topics of logistics and traffic and gained a lot of practical experience in logistics. Then one thing followed another and now I’m here at PTV in the Logistics Research Department.
Charlotte: I studied chemistry in France and then received my doctorate in physics. After that, I worked for three years at a start-up in research and development. At a certain point I wanted to do something new and went back to the university for an Advanced Master’s in Supply Chain Management. After an internship at Bosch in Karlsruhe, I applied to the Research Team at the PTV Group.
Compass: So, a variety of paths and careers can lead to the PTV Research Team…
Jasmin: Yes. I don’t think we have very many classic researchers. We are a varied group, composed of geographers, traffic engineers, MBAs, mathematicians, information technology specialists, etc. However, this is a great advantage. We work on so many different projects and can therefore bundle a wide variety of competencies.
Compass: And which projects are you two currently working on?
Charlotte: I’m involved in three traffic projects that are all supported by the EU. CoEXist focuses on the interaction between partially-automated and conventional vehicles in the transition period on the way to completely autonomous vehicle fleets. We are the work package leader there and concerned with all of the project management and a lot of coordination and organization. With C-MobILE, the goal is to make transport on Europe’s roads safer and more efficient. The third project, Flow, examines to what extent improved mobility options for pedestrians and bicyclists can reduce traffic jams in cities. A former colleague developed an assessment process for this in order to be able to better analyse the effect of measures on traffic jams. My job is to further develop this tool.
Jasmin: I’m involved in two logistics projects. On the one hand, there is Clusters 2.0., where we are working on a networked multi-modal logistics network comprised of several clusters. This is especially exciting for me as a young professional since it is a relatively large EU project that is coordinated by PTV. TransformingTransport, my second project, focuses on how to create added value from Big Data in logistics and in traffic. Here I am assisting with individual work packages, among other things, by being able to estimate better arrival times for lorries with existing data.
Compass: What about research work inspires you?
Jasmin: It’s all about the topics! We in research look at something that will become a product tomorrow or the day after tomorrow. Here, for example, we might focus on autonomous driving or on how lorries can be networked better. This is all very exciting and innovative. The great thing is that we approach these topics in applied fashion and scientifically at the same time, where they can be applied in reality and how they are handled by research. For us, naturally it is always crucial how PTV products can be enhanced and optimised or simply made better known.
Charlotte: Yes, we have direct insight into what the future will bring. I also think it’s exciting how varied the research projects are. For C-MobILE, for example, psychological aspects also play a role. Keyword “acceptance,” that is, how people react to new information. Or the various partners with whom we work. For CoEXist there are 15 partners from an extremely wide variety of areas, from automobile manufacturers to municipalities.
Compass: How does project work function with so many different partners? How it is possible to imagine this?
Charlotte: Naturally this always depends a little on how large the projects are. Generally, there are meetings that everybody attends, for example, when the work packages are presented and distributed. Then there is usually a split into workshops in which smaller groups cooperate. In logistics, the projects are frequently very large; then there are more workshops. In the traffic sector, the projects are usually smaller. For CoExist, for example, we do nearly everything together with all project participants.
Compass: It sounds as if you’re on the road a lot …
Jasmin: Yes, sometimes that’s very stressful, but it’s a lot of fun, precisely when you meet partners from all over Europe. But, of course, much of our work is done at a desk. A lot of research, writing reports, and acquisition activities are involved.
Compass: And what are currently the greatest challenges for you?
Jasmin: Finding your way into the projects is not always so easy. Precisely the EU projects usually run for 3 years or longer, so this is frequently very complex. Since the projects are so varied, you have to think your way in again each time.
Charlotte: Yes, the nice thing is that you always find contact people who are happy to share information with the team and all over at PTV.
Compass: What are the hot topics of the future in your areas?
Charlotte: Automated vehicles, new mobility forms such as shared mobility and MaaS, digitalization, Big Data, the environment. These are all hot topics that are related and on which we focus each day with our work.
Jasmin: It is becoming ever more important not to separate traffic and logistics from one another, but rather to examine them jointly. These two areas influence one another mutually and I think that you can create added value by considering the relationship between logistics and traffic.