There are currently a large number of traffic and transport applications that are using advanced Information Technologies and are efficiently managing specific events or supporting the decision process of traffic/transport planners and decision makers. However, these existing tools lack interoperability, which would allow for a general analysis of a given scenario.
Efficient road traffic and information management systems need appropriate details on the current network situation. A lot of research has already been conducted on traffic data acquisition on motorways, but well equipped networks account for only 20% of the European inter-urban network and there is still a lack in methods, procedures, and means of data collection, communication and organisation for secondary road networks.
SENSOR's overall objectives were to:
- Improve the level of service for secondary road network users (through RTTI for example)
- Optimise information management to improve road management by relevant authorities.
- Implement a traffic management strategy at a network level.
In order to attain these primary objectives, SENSOR had to meet the following set of requirements:
- The development of a Handbook for planning, implementing and managing road traffic data collection in a cost-efficient way
- The development of a Decision Support System designed to answer questions like: "I have N additional sensors of type X, where should I place them, and what will be the benefit?"
- The provision of strategies for implementing real time data collection.
The SENSOR project was organised around 2 key issues:
- the collection of data
- the organisation and use of the collected data.
The first issue was carried out along the following methodological steps:
- User involvement. This step assesed the need to collect relevant data, through interaction with users (mainly road authorities)
- What to collect. This step proposed a guideline for defining the necessary data to be collected for secondary-road traffic management, while stressing cost-effectiveness.
- How to collect. At this stage, it was necessary to produce a detailed inventory of systems and devices for data collection and guidelines for optimal collection method.
- Where to collect. As in Step 3, it was necessary to issue guidelines defining the optimum number and locations of data acquisition points.
The second issue (organisation and use of data) was less technical:
- Organisational aspects. This step put forward a comprehensive methodology for building an efficient data management system including its' physical and logical requirements. This led to providing a set of recommendations for organising efficient data-exchange.
- Linking. The aim was to establish guidelines linking the different aspects of data management in an optimised way: the various tasks related to data collection, management, and exploitation were linked together by developing an advanced software tool, the SENSOR DSS (Decision Support System).
The SENSOR project produced two main exploitable results: the SENSOR Handbook and the SENSOR DSS (Decision Support System).
1. The SENSOR Handbook was developed to provide a methodology for planning, implementing and managing road traffic data collection for secondary road networks. The overall objective of this methodology for implementing a planning process for traffic management strategies is to efficiently state data acquisition points so as to improve sensing on the road network. The handbook's methodology is developed along the following sequence:
- focusing on the specific area to be treated
- analysing the stakes and defining the political objectives
- selecting the strategies for traffic improvement
- selecting the appropriate technology for data collection
- deciding on the appropriate links for sensor positioning
- defining the specific organisational and security aspects.
2. Parallel to the Handbook, the user is provided with the SENSOR DSS, a user-friendly interface for assessing the appropriate technology, the priority links to be equipped and the cost estimate of the planned traffic data acquisition system. The tools implemented are:
- SENSOR Administration Tool: for retrieving data on state-of-the-art sensor technologies
- SENSOR Assessment Tool: for deciding what sensor technologies fit the best with their requirements
- SENSOR Cost Assessment Tool: for calculating the installation, maintenance, and use of the sensors and equipment for data transmission
- SENSOR Optimisation Tool: for choosing the best location for a given number of sensors
These results relied heavily on results and data provided by tests conducted on Spanish, British, and German test sites.
Regarding organisational aspects of secondary roads, the following recommendations were made:
- Traffic management objectives should be clearly described and be detailed enough to come to a common understanding and approach within different hierarchies of one organisation as well as between different organisations. Where necessary, especially between organisations of different authorities (countries, regions, etc), contracts and agreements should be drawn up.
- A catalogue of possible data sources should be compiled to be able to take all data available at different organisations into account. Data should be expmoited for different purposes, e.g. traffic data for traffic management but also - in an aggregated form - for planning, design, construction, maintenance or statistical purposes.
- Existing information and knowledge of the persons and organisations involved should be used optimally, hence persons with specific knowledge of the local situation are as essential as those with knowledge of traffic and data management.
- In general, for a rapid information, decision-making and implementation process, it is reasonable to assign as much responsibility as possible to the authority with the best specific local knowledge and to provide as much information as necessary for the authority performing overall traffic management.
- Partly or fully automated traffic management operations require a fair amount of hardware and software for data detection and strategy implementation. It may be best and most efficiently used centrally in a traffic control centre. Although information provision and decision-making might take longer, this will help avoid individual local decisions which may be counter-productive if not co-ordinated. The more traffic management is automated, the more centralised it can be.
- For efficient traffic management it is essential to interconnect the control centres where the decisions are taken with neighbouring control centres. A European standard exists for this kind of data exchange.
- On a short-term basis, the SENSOR project team foresees a widespread use for the exploitation of the results, supported by the interest in the national demonstrations presented to Local Road Authorities, at both the national and international level.
- The exploitation of the results is a process that can be carried out over the next decade, as the nature of the results enables the incorporation of new technologies - enhanced simulation capabilities in the road management framework - without substantial additional effort.