FMI has for years investigated how traffic safety could be improved by transmitting local weather information directly to vehicles, especially in winter conditions.
A wide-ranging introduction of intelligent transport would, however, require the help of big car and equipment manufacturers. Intelligent transport has been a topic of discussion for a long time, but the progress of adopting intelligent transport services in everyday use has been slow. "We have known for a long time that the already existing expertise cannot be adopted in daily use unless the international car and equipment manufacturers are engaged in the development. Then it will be possible to proceed from research to product development and the introduction of operative services," summarises Timo Sukuvaara, Head of Group at the FMI. There is therefore a need for versatile test environments in which different intelligent transport options can be tested, for instance, during the winter testing of vehicles. "Our goal has been to provide Sodankylä with an infrastructure which is so good and versatile that it will also attract big manufacturers. Road weather information is the key service within intelligent transport, something that all big operators need," Sukuvaara stresses.
"We believe that manufacturers of cars and vehicular equipment are interested enough of our combination of 5G network, intelligent transport services, weather expertise and challenging winter conditions that it will lead to cooperation with us." Sukuvaara hopes that international car manufacturers will realise the benefits of collaboration. "Similar road weather expertise combined with intelligent transport and infrastructure is not offered by anyone else," he points out. Aurora, an Arctic ecosystem of intelligent transport and automated driving, is also currently being developed in Muonio. The projects in Sodankylä do not fall directly under Aurora, but the FMI does collaborate with Aurora, too, in connection with these and other projects.
In addition to a test track that is closed to ordinary traffic, the infrastructure in Sodankylä includes an opportunity to perform tests in a real transport environment. According to Sukuvaara, the tests conducted at the test track built at Sodankylä airport (road weather infrastructure will be built in the next summer) are aimed at testing the weather data gathered by vehicles themselves, for example. This means testing how the real-time observation data gathered by passing vehicles can be collected to improve the accuracy of road weather information, while also providing those vehicles with real-time weather information from the vicinity of the station.In other words, the road weather station serves as a hotspot of wireless intelligent transport services.
Satellite data received at the Arctic Research Centre (ARC) is also available within the airport area. At the moment, research is conducted on how the data collected by satellites can in future be used in observing frost damage, for example. "I'm sure satellite pictures also contain other data that could be used in intelligent transport, but right now we are starting from observing frost damage."
In addition to the creation of infrastructures, there are also many kinds of research projects underway. The Intelligent Arctic Trucks project is funded by the ERDF and comprising 260 kilometres of road on which six trucks will carry out measurements, started in September this year. The trucks will form a mobile real-time test laboratory for studying intelligent transport and road weather. With instruments installed in the trucks, the project provides effective and accurate local road weather information in real time and a forecast for the chosen part of the road between Kevitsa and Kemi. The trucks have been provided with different instruments for measuring e.g. the state of the road, meaning whether the road is wet, icy or dry, and the friction on the surface of the road. The size of the friction measurement equipment alone means that it is not a feasible solution for all cars, but, for example, scheduled coaches or selected transport operators could in future provide data from certain main routes. At the same time, the project investigates how many vehicles are needed to produce sufficiently accurate data on the prevailing road conditions. Sod5G, a project launched in December and likewise funded by the ERDF, will build a test environment for intelligent transport, road weather services and the 5G network within the area of Sodankylä airport.
"Technology will enable us to collect road weather data from many different sources in future. One challenge that everyone will share is, of course, how the collection and transmission of the data from different sources can be carried out in an effective, comprehensible and user-friendly manner," summarises Sukuvaara.