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Yves Cohen
Directeur Business Innnovation du domaine Mobilités
Published on January 27, 2020

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The uberized future of road operating equipment

Uberization, a neo-euphemism derived from the company name Uber, is a recent development in economics that describes the use of services which allow service providers and clients to interact directly and almost instantaneously with each another via new technology.

Vers une ubérisation des équipements de la route ?

- Crédits : © petovarga - AdobeStock

The technological resources that have enabled uberization to emerge and thrive result from the widespread development of broadband, mobile internet, smartphones and geolocation. Uberization is more widely a part of the collaborative economy. This concept of a disruptive economy runs contrary to the traditional economy that people have known for decades. Road operations are no exception to this process, and, driven by the innovation of its Mobilities business unit, Egis is taking the lead and has already begun to advise operators in the uberization of their practices.

 

How are roads and motorways still operated today?

Since the 1980s and 1990s, road facilities have hardly changed: they are more technical and more effective, but their approach and their use have remained unchanged. Capital costs and maintenance costs are proportional to the number of fixtures, which also require sizeable organisations to maintain and operate them.

To get information on its network, the operator has counting stations that it installs at specific points on its network: these can be inductive loops, electromagnetic sensors or cameras that will all feed data back on flow rates, occupancy rates or vehicle speeds.

To help the user report an incident to road or motorway control centre operators, the operator installs emergency call boxes. This allow the user to talk directly to the operator by interphone and describe their problem.

To inform the user as to what is happening on their route, the operator (in France) has two main resources:

  • The radio station 107.7 FM which required a radio broadcasting studio and heavy infrastructure comprising radio transmitters along the full length of the motorway. This radio emits the same data flows for all users, without knowing either their precise position or their route (for example, users could receive information about an event in Montpellier while they are heading north on the motorway from Avignon to Lyon).
  • Variable message signs (VMS) which inform users of an incident ahead of them.

 

How will roads and motorways be operated tomorrow?

We are currently going through a period of intense disruption, during which everything is being digitalised, and everyday travel is no exception to this.

To get information on its network, the operator benefits from the fact that motorists and their vehicles are now like trackers thanks to smartphones or Satnav devices. This is what is commonly known as FCD (Floating car data), which is the data from vehicles provided by GPS. Software solutions such as Google®, Waze®, and TomTom® supply the location, average speeds on the network and journey times on road sections.

Tomorrow, things will be even easier, as vehicles will be connected. In such a scenario, they will interact with infrastructure and themselves supply the control centre with data from their own sensors: speed and location but also other valuable data (e.g., windscreen wipers in motion, indicating that it is raining on this section, the use of ABS to show a loss of adherence indicating that the road surface is slippery due to black ice, an oil spillage on the road, etc.).

To help the user report an incident to road or motorway control centre operators, the operator will provide them with an application (a type of avatar of the emergency call box) directly on the smart phone. Tomorrow, all vehicles will be fitted with an e-call button (mandatory in new European vehicles since April 2018), in order to receive live assistance without leaving the vehicle.

To inform the user as to what is happening on their route, the operator will also have two key resources:

  • A Web Radio, which will eventually replace FM radio stations while providing the same functions. The user will indicate their profile and their preferred choice of music and will be monitored throughout the journey. Operational alerts will interrupt the music on the car radio, as it does today, but they will be geo-located so as to only report incidents ahead of the vehicle, and less than 50 km away.

    The web radio is a digital Internet-based radio which does not require:
    • either a broadcast media, as telecom operators’ 3G networks are sufficient;
    • or a broadcast studio, as it will draw on the podcasts of existing radio stations;
    • or journalists or presenters to talk live, thanks to an automated voice recorder.
  • With regard to the messages they receive, as vehicles are now becoming increasingly compatible with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, it merely requires an application to ‘mirror’ their smart phone to provide mobile VMSs in vehicles. These on-the-go VMSs will display the messages to the driver as they approach the incident, using the location data of the vehicle.

 

Advantages of uberization for operators

It is the very principle of uberization (principle described in all economic works dealing with this new concept). Services are cheaper and of better quality than in the traditional economy, they are simpler and faster, they are secured and require less maintenance.

Operators will even be able to gain easier access to their customers (users), study opportunities for additional income (targeted advertising) and business diversification, find out what users think of their services (users’ assessment of service providers) and organise their operations better. They will acquire greater autonomy and flexibility to fulfil the needs of their users.

Moreover, the information offered to the user is now personalised. Users are no longer inundated with information that is irrelevant to their needs.

Clients who have asked us for our input on these subjects

  • SOFICO and SPW representing Wallonia for the new PEREX: the Wallonia infrastructure control centre
  • The Urban Planning Division (DAU) of the Government of the Principality of Monaco, for the new Integrated Mobility Management Centre (CIGM)
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