Road safety is a major concern for all of us. Although things have improved over the years, the number of road fatalities is still unacceptably high in the European Union (in 2000, road accidents claimed over 40 000 lives in the European Union and injured more than 1.7 million).
The HIGHWAY project was accomplished in order to offer higher safety and location-based value added services where interactions between the person in control, the vehicle and the information infrastructure are addressed in an integrated way.
HIGHWAY, will provide European car drivers and pedestrians with eSafety services and when needed, interaction with multimedia (text, audio, images, real-time video, voice/graphics) and value-added location-based services, through the combination of smart real-time maps, UMTS 3G mobile technology, positioning systems and intelligent agent technology, 2D/3D spatial tools and speech synthesis/voice recognition interfaces.
Within the HIGHWAY integrated safety scenario, the role of digital maps was central: smart, queryable HIGHWAY maps will bring up-to-date information enriched with safety relevant data for the car. These comprise speed limit data to feed speed limit units and dynamic data like relevant traffic or weather information for human and possibly for non-human consumption (e.g. maps will be treated as additional sensors by on-board ADAS systems). HIGHWAY maps will help drivers facing critical driving situation resulting from road topography, for instance, by delaying incoming phone calls or triggering safety mechanisms based on map information like the radius of the curve ahead or speed limits or data like an accident ahead. In addition to decreasing the probability for accidents and minimising potential damage to drivers and property, HIGHWAY services will be more cost-effective, efficient (saving time to customers) and informative (e.g., better informing travellers who can have difficulty discovering what is available or on offer in an area they arrive).
The project starts identifying the user requirements for improved eSafety services, and subsequently it was undertaken the definition of a system architecture for open, integrated and secure, geographic, multimedia and multimodal service delivery to satisfy the eSafety needs of European car drivers (and pedestrians).
The project carry out the specification and implementation of a set of networked, multimodal and interoperable tools, to acquire, manage and delivery map-based, multimedia (sensor, audio, text, real-time video) information from distributed sources (vehicle, infrastructure, user profiles, other DBs, etc.), exploiting the broadband wireless technology (UMTS, Wi-Fi) technology and the powerful features of intelligent distributed agents and XML-based languages.
The system sends up-to-date information on driving conditions, accidents, traffic jams and road works to drivers' incar devices and/or mobile phones.
The driver can also receive suggestions of alternative, safer routes to follow, accompanied by the same up-to-date information service, meaning that road-users are aware of the obstacles on their paths and are thus less likely to be involved in accidents.
The system works by integrating smart real-time maps, modern mobile phone technology, positioning systems, 2D/3D spatial tools and speech/voice recognition interfaces.
Before setting off on a journey, the driver will send the coordinates of his or her location and destination via the Global Positioning System (GPS). The service then fetches an up-to-date map of the route with road conditions, accidents, traffic jams and road works information superimposed. The GPS then relays information between the driver and the service, which will provide up-to-date map and traffic lane information at intervals of 5 to 10 minutes for the remaining part of the journey.
In addition to supplying information such as road obstacles and traffic jams from its Tele Atlas database, the system will also provide information on the likelihood of a sudden deterioration in driving conditions due to changing weather conditions.
The prototype of the traffic information service developed by the project has been successfully tested on the motorway linking the Finnish cities of Turku and Helsinki. In another part of the project, the communications company Motorola and the car manufacturer Fiat along with NetXcalibur will be testing a comparable traffic information service in the Italian city of Turin.
One of the main HIGHWAY innovations: integration of data from various sources with a navigable digital map to deliver smart and dynamic maps.
Green Paper 'Towards a new Culture for Urban Mobility'
In 2007 the European Union started to focus its agenda on promoting sustainable transport developments in urban areas and began to address the relevant issues in a wide and intensive consultation process. Following a series of conferences, workshops and consultations conducted at the beginning of 2007, the Green Paper on Urban mobility was published in September 2007. This document provided a broad basis for discussion between all stakeholders active in the field of urban transport. The Commission asked for comments and answers to 25 specific questions derived from six policy fields:
- reduction of congestion;
- improvement of urban mobility;
- environmental issues in urban areas;
- the role of technical solutions;
- accessibility of collective transport;
- safety and security issues.
Inputs to the Green Paper were due for March 2008. Stakeholders' response to this Green Paper will contribute to the development of a strategic action plan, defined by the Commission as 'a European urban mobility strategy that lives up to people's expectations'.