Rethinking traffic management after COVID-19
Adapting to new mobility situations after COVID-19
Joost de Ruiter, Managing Director of Peek Traffic, has seen the pandemic as a period for reflection and a chance to re-evaluate the company’s range of traffic management products.
In an interview with Intertraffic, we discussed the lessons learned from this COVID-19 pandemic and how we had to deal with unprecented drops in traffic levels.
It’s certainly been, from a traffic management perspective, a very interesting situation. After the first few months of lockdown people started to want to know what the impact on traffic was going to be, now that we had little or no idea how long it would last. So we had to adapt to a new situation. We saw a dramatic drop in traffic but the drop in public transport usage was even bigger. Strangely enough, the sales of second-hand cars, in the Netherlands and other countries, actually increased. We saw a drop in traffic management and traffic road users, but at the same time we saw a whole new dynamic popping up. Also, the times that people were on the roads were changing and the fluctuation throughout the week was completely different.
“This led to an unprecedented situation for cities’ and road authorities’ traffic management applications,” de Ruiter recounts. “Where generally you make one simulation, for example, and work out the best solution and scenario to manage the traffic so you can, from a central perspective, steer the different scenario that you put in place based on, for example, Moscow, but all those systems and scenarios suddenly didn’t apply anymore. After the summer the questions started to come: please can you help us, provide us with all kinds of data, KPIs, etc, all the differences of road usage. So that’s what we helped them with. We have a team of traffic engineers that are highly educated in traffic management and they did all kinds of simulations and data crunching to see what the differences are and how we should adapt.”
With lockdowns and restrictions coming and going at worryingly regular intervals, de Ruiter and his team were having to think on their feet.
“It’s really difficult to create one new traffic management application or scenario and implement it because after a month or two it’s not going to work anymore. What we’re seeing, in real terms, is Traffic Management as a Service (TMaaS). We know and understand that traffic fluctuates and we understand that once the lockdowns are lifted people will go back out onto the road and still won’t be using public transport.”
From a post-COVID perspective, TMaaS is going to help them to get a better understanding, on a monthly or quarterly basis, of the traffic management requirements and road usage. That will require us to re-analyse the whole situation on a regular basis, and then have the traffic management application adapt to the new situation. By this summer we will have a fully automated flow as a service engine of our traffic management application. I wouldn’t go as far as saying that it’s AI already but it’s certainly going to help to produce better automated reports, based on the data that’s coming out of the traffic signals.”