SOCRATES2.0 wraps up: new step taken in interactive traffic management

The European SOCRATES2.0 project aimed to promote cleaner, more efficient and safer traffic flow. “The partners – road authorities and private service providers – found a new, structured way of working together,” explains project manager Tiffany Vlemmings from the Dutch Directorate-General for Public Works and Water Management (Rijkswaterstaat). “That resulted in road users now receiving smarter routing and navigation services. The collaborating public and private parties are now sharing their results, lessons learned and recommendations for the future. And encouraging other road authorities, service providers and the automotive industry in the European Union to continue with the SOCRATES2.0 legacy.”


Opportunities thanks to digitalisation 

Road authorities have a long history of providing incident and accident information to drivers via roadside systems. These systems have become increasingly sophisticated, leading to today's comprehensive traffic management services based on broad societal goals and principles.

“At the same time, the use of mobile and in-car information and navigation services is rapidly increasing,” says Vlemmings. “These services have clear benefits for individual road users. They offer turn-by-turn navigation, information on speed limits, roadblocks and traffic jams – and, of course, a calculation of the fastest route to the destination. These services anticipate a future of cooperative, connected and automated mobility. A future where a driver is increasingly supported by systems.”


Towards a win-win-win situation 

According to the SOCRATES2.0 partners, the big question remained how to successfully align the goals of public and private organisations, in a way that traffic can be managed more effectively and private service providers can benefit as well. Vlemmings: “At the moment, information about accidents, road works, environmental zones and detour routes from roadside systems does not always correspond to the suggestions made by navigation apps.” 

In short, the partners wanted to discover how public and private parties can best work together to share and merge their data in a way that allows them to proactively manage traffic and align information services. Without road authorities losing sight of their societal objectives and without service providers having to compromise their competitive position. And also, in a way that drivers can benefit from real-time advice. 

“If you manage that, you have a win-win-win situation for road users, service providers and road authorities,” says Vlemmings. “However, a lot needs to happen behind the scenes to make this win-win-win a reality. And you need many different parties cooperating: data suppliers, road authorities, telecom and ICT companies and service providers of traffic information and navigation. 


Different forms of cooperation

The public and private parties in SOCRATES2.0 understood from the start of the project in 2018 that good cooperation was essential to achieve the goals of cleaner, more efficient and safer traffic flow, explains Vlemmings. “We developed the so-called 'Cooperation Framework' for this purpose, with different levels of cooperation, from very simple to very extensive. The cooperation models define who provides what data and when, how to deal with sharing competitively sensitive information, and when and how drivers should receive tailored traffic information and navigation advice.” 

The project manager goes on to explain that the Cooperation Framework distinguishes between three levels of cooperation: 

  1. Partners share more data and agree on the use of standards and exchange principles 
  2. Partners deliver their services based on a shared vision on the traffic state
  3. Partners coordinate and align their end user services (the highest level)

Four supporting roles were developed to facilitate the collaboration: a Strategy Table, a Network Monitor, a Network Manager and an Assessor.

Vlemmings: “The SOCRATES2.0 partners designed the framework in such a way that other public and private parties in the field of traffic management in other cities and regions can easily use the framework themselves. And, more importantly, work together at their own pace according to their own ambitions.” 


Pilot with more than 20,000 road users 

The different cooperation models were piloted to five use cases in four European cities, in Amsterdam, Copenhagen, Munich and Antwerp. The partners deployed the new intermediary roles and developed new end-user services based on the ambitions of each use case. Vlemmings is satisfied that: “Despite limited traffic during the Covid-19 lockdowns, more than 20,000 road users participated in the tests.” 


Amsterdam and Copenhagen

She explains that drivers in Amsterdam, for example, were given alternative route advice via Flitsmeister and AmiGo, which prevented or delayed traffic jams. In one of the use cases in Copenhagen, drivers received better information about environmental zones to help turn the Danish capital into a carbon neutral city by 2025.


Munich and Antwerp

In Munich, the goal was more satisfied event visitors by improving traffic flow distribution over space and time and offering users optimised dynamic parking guidance. As part of the use case, the BMW Group offered its users information via an in-car vehicle app and BrandMKRS approached users on social media with the offer to opt-in to receive relevant traffic information via the users own trusted apps like Facebook, Whatsapp and Google maps. Drivers participating in the Antwerp Smart Tunnel service could follow the advice from the Flitsmeister or BMW in-car app to cross the Scheldt river via another, less crowded, tunnel without having to pay a toll fee. 


Digital magazine and videos

“All results are presented in the clear and convenient SOCRATES2.0 online magazine,” Vlemmings says proudly. “This magazine gives you a bird's-eye view of the project and links you to all the background reports for more information. Also watch the 3-minute video that gives a good quick impression of the project. Or the more elaborate film, in which the partners reflect on the project, its results, lessons learned, and what comes next.” 


The SOCRATES2.0 partners

The SOCRATES2.0 (‘System of Coordinated Roadside and Automotive Services for Traffic Efficiency and Safety’) project was led by the Directorate-General for Public Works and Water Management (Dutch: Rijkswaterstaat). The other partners were the road authorities in Amsterdam, Copenhagen, Munich, Antwerp, the service providers TomTom, Be-Mobile, BrandMKRS and car manufacturer BMW Group. A number of data and ICT companies participated too: MAPtm, Technolution and HERE Technologies.