Merging data gives better insight into roadworks

Intending to lessen the consequences of roadworks, an intermediary trusted party combined the data from the public and private partners in the SOCRATES2.0 project. ‘We now have a more complete picture of when and where roadworks take place,’ say Nuno Rodrigues and Ruud van den Dries from MAPtm.

When roadworks are required for road surface repairs or changes in road layout and design, for instance, motorists usually have fewer lanes to use and must reduce their speed. This can have a considerable impact on road safety and traffic flow efficiency. Traffic jams and longer trips are often the result.

One of the goals of SOCRATES2.0, which is co-financed by the European Union, is reducing the impact of roadworks. To find out how best to do that, the project partners created the roadworks use case to test in the pilot cities of Amsterdam, Antwerp and Munich.

Minimising errors

Currently, there are several public and private sources of roadworks information available that report on the status of roadworks. ‘These sources have been providing information to their clients for a long time already,’ says Nuno Rodrigues, Traffic Architect at MAPtm, one of the eleven SOCRATES2.0 partners. ‘But they always do so from their perspectives.’ One source, for example, tells you that two of the three lanes are still open, while another source only says work is taking place at a specific location.

‘Public and private organisations all have their own services based on their own systems,’ adds Ruud van den Dries, Mobility Innovator at MAPtm. The technology company developed a fusion process per pilot site to merge the separate data feeds from the public and private sources. They used all data, because errors occur in every system, they explain. ‘By combining the different sources and perspectives, it’s possible to show more information and details about specific roadworks.’

Cooperating competitors

Combining all of the data wasn’t easy. First of all, competitors such as TomTom and Be-Mobile’s Flitsmeister have currently no interest in sharing their data with each other. ‘To overcome this, you need to have a collaboration in which everyone feels comfortable,’ says Rodrigues. ‘Therefore, we introduced an intermediary role. This is an independent party which doesn’t have an competitive interest in using the data but with knowledge to combine and add value to it.’

MAPtm took on this role. ‘We don’t have end-user services, so we’re not competing with other participating companies and we don’t pose a threat to their business,’ both colleagues say. Using an intermediary seems suitable in the case of roadworks, they say. Stakeholders in the traffic management chain can draw several lessons from the collaboration model that was used during the project.

Many systems

Merging the data was also challenging because each partner uses its own systems, which were developed from their own perspectives. ‘These systems are hard to combine seamlessly,’ says Rodrigues. ‘There turned out to be some technical challenges.’

Another thing they encountered was the fact that these days, there are many ways to determine where roadworks are taking place. ‘The sources we used all do this differently,’ says Van den Dries. ‘To identify whether it’s in the same place has become challenging.’ Standardising these systems is possible and something that’s going to happen eventually, they believe, but investments are necessary for this.

Close to reality

MAPtm has now combined the data into a roadworks data feed per pilot site. The firm also made the data available again for each partner, so they can continue to use it for their services. The merged data boasts higher information density and greater accuracy, which offers new possibilities. For instance, this allows navigation providers to better visualise the situation for their clients.

‘It’s much closer to the reality on the road now,’ says Van den Dries. ‘The new feed shows when exactly roadworks are taking place.’ And a better picture helps to reduce the impact of roadworks on traffic.