Digital overlays and future infrastructure

ITS Australia digital overlays

by Susan Harris, CEO, ITS Australia

One of the most important things to consider when planning and building our cities, transport assets and critical infrastructure is to integrate digital engineering into all stages of the process. While the implementation of a lot of new technologies is still a work in progress, ITS Australia highlights some of the digital architecture that companies need to be thinking about and implementing in their operations.

Australia is currently seeing very large investment in the development and delivery of major transport infrastructure across the nation. The delivery of efficient and effective transport networks is integral to the economic success of our nation, now and into the future. From major roads projects underway around the country, to the recent opening of the Sydney Metro and ACT Light Rail, the current scale of investment into transport infrastructure is enormous. Over the next ten years, Australia’s state and federal governments will invest $100 billion in transport infrastructure across the nation.

This program of work is vital for our expanding urban and regional centres, and to prepare for emerging and future transport technologies. However, it is imperative that both the design and construction of these major roads, rail networks, light rail systems and other transport developments be built for the future.

The integrated development of digital engineering is necessary from the early planning and design stages, through to construction and implementation, and of effective asset management systems. Intelligent Transport Systems need to be built into all stages of transport infrastructure to ensure we build for the networks of tomorrow. This includes building physical and digital infrastructure into which emergent and future technologies can be integrated, ensuring safety, security, connectivity and multi-modality.

Whilst some of the specific technology choices are as yet undetermined, there are important elements that require national architecture and development to enable “no regrets” investments that are platform agnostic. These include, but are not limited to:

Suitable communications

Enabling a nationally integrated C-ITS ecosystem that leverages multiple wireless communications technologies including DSRC, WiFi, Bluetooth, 4G/5G and Satellite to enable the best ‘fit-for-purpose’ communications architecture.

Highly accurate mapping

Creating high-accuracy maps based on reference points on 3D models of the road and infrastructure environment. These maps need to be updated continuously with real-time information, conveyed utilising sensor data from on-road vehicles, about traffic, roadworks and any other information critical to the safety of road users, now and in the future.

Highly accurate positioning capability

Enabling precise, centimetre-level position determination, integrated into the vehicle sensor network. This positioning capability will be essential to create a digital infrastructure ecosystem within which Connected and Automated Vehicle (CAV) technology can be safely and successfully deployed. These developments will likely use positioning techniques based on Global Navigation Satellite Systems (GNSS) such as Global Positioning System (GPS), cellular network infrastructure, or on the integration of the two technologies.

Intelligent Transport Systems concept

Security by Design

Within technological systems, addressing vulnerabilities and patching security holes as they are found can be a difficult process and will never be as effective as designing systems to be as secure as possible from the start. Security by Design is a ground up approach based on proactively embedding security into the design and operation of IT systems, networked infrastructure and business practices.

As we increasingly move toward the Internet of Things (IoT), Security by Design will become a critical consideration in the initial stages of product design and manufacturing and will offer increased protection of the confidentiality, integrity and availability of user information.

Digital twin for virtual asset management

Digital twin is a dynamic, up-to-date and accurate virtual model of an existing physical asset. The digital twin provides asset owners with real-time data about how their asset, equipment or product will function under various conditions. It enables them to make informed decisions based on facts, rather than assumptions about how a product should perform. Digital twin technology provides organisations with valuable information that they can use to monitor an asset, schedule repairs and make improvements based on the results that are delivered.

Edge devices

Edge computing allows data produced by IoT devices to be processed closer to where it is created instead of sending it across long routes to data centres or clouds. Computing closer to the edge of the network lets organisations analyse important data in near real time.

Edge computing will be essential to the successful and safe deployment of CAVs. Effectively, CAVs will function as edge devices, analysing and processing enormous amounts of data in real time so that vehicles are piloted safely and efficiently.

The advancement of connected and automated vehicle technology and the appropriate deployment of the technology is a pathway to provide safer, more efficient and more sustainable transport.

Safety needs to be the foundation on which any development of Connected and Automated Vehicles (CAV) rests. We are optimistic about the innovation and expertise in our industry and the functionality that will be available to the wider community.

These technologies have the potential to revolutionise transport in a way not seen since the mass production of the private vehicle more than 100 years ago and to save thousands of lives.

It is critical that governments establish very clear regulations which are performance-based, to ensure that the deployment of CAVs is guided to improve the safety and quality of life of the community. Governments need to provide regulatory oversight to give the public confidence in CAV testing and deployment, as well as data sharing.

While the mass production of private vehicles obviously had a stunning impact on society and the built environment, the advent of connected and automated vehicles and other revolutionary technologies offer the potential for even greater levels of disruption.

Transport innovation like ‘Mobility as a Service’ (MaaS) offers the potential to drastically improve customer choices, reduce travel costs, increase network capacity and transport sustainability while improving social and environmental outcomes.

Concepts like MaaS and evolving our transport networks are ways we can adapt to and positively leverage societal and technological disruption.

A key component of MaaS is the integration of planning, booking and payment into one seamless customer interface. This is a complex process involving many closed back end systems and proprietary platforms. From the customer perspective, this interaction will need to be simple and frictionless.

To enable competition for MaaS, a level playing field should be provided to ensure reasonable access to potential players. This will require the standardisation of a range of systems that are currently closed or siloed. As we are in the embryonic stage of these new transport delivery models, we anticipate that both perceptions and realities will evolve as we start to experience MaaS, and further advance on-demand transport in Australia.

This partner content is brought to you by ITS Australia. ITS Australia is a membership-based peak body representing Australian industry, government and research organisations in promoting Intelligent Transport Systems initiatives. We are a Not-for-Profit association and serve the interests of our members in Australia and globally. We represent the Australian ITS sector within Australia and Australian ITS interests internationally.

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