ITM Finland is responsible for traffic control and management on Finnish motorways. This requires reliable technology. The data collected benefits motorists, authorities and traffic planners. Future intelligent traffic and automated driving will increase the need for data.
I have a road trip to a cottage on the other side of Finland ahead of me and I need to get there quickly. My partner and I decide to follow the https://liikennetilanne.tmfg.fi website while driving. We'll find real-time information if there are any traffic jams or incidents along the way, such as accidents, roadworks or changing speed limits. Camera images along the main roads will show changes in driving conditions. The journey is going well, and by evening we'll be there an hour earlier than usual.
Among other things, this is the kind of information produced by ITM Finland (Intelligent Traffic Management). It monitors road traffic and provides its customers with data that improves traffic safety and flow. ITM is part of TMFG (Traffic Management Finland), a specialised transport group owned by the Finnish state, which manages traffic not only on the roads but also on the railways, at sea and in the air.
Harri Seppinen, Head of Unit at ITM Finland, explains that road traffic is monitored day and night from four traffic centres - Helsinki, Turku, Tampere and Oulu - by a total of around 50 traffic controllers.
The police control the traffic, but ITM Finland's statutory task is to monitor traffic flows on the highways and the safety of tunnel sections, as well as to manage disturbances and operate electronic speed limit signs and signals.
"Our on-call officers also take 100,000 calls a year from the road user line. People call to report acute incidents, such as a tree falling on the road. The line is an important snapshot of the road network, from which we forward information for immediate remedial action, for example to the rescue services and the relevant subcontractor," says Seppinen.
Easter, Midsummer and Christmas are peak periods for road traffic centres, because that is when the roads are busiest. Traffic counting loops embedded in the tarmac register the flow of cars and indicate the level of congestion. The traffic centres broadcast reports on television and radio during the festive season and produce daily traffic bulletins on road incidents such as roadworks and accidents.
Many car manufacturers' systems and navigation service providers already use road traffic data. For example, if there is an accident or traffic congestion, the services suggest an alternative route for the driver. Traffic flows also drive infrastructure development, as the ELY centres use traffic data to a large extent to plan where to widen the road or the next motorway section. According to statistics, the busiest road in Finland is the Ring Road 1 in the Helsinki metropolitan area, with an average of 70 000 vehicles per day in one direction.
"Tunnel traffic requires a lot of technology: electronic speed limit signs, smoke extraction systems, secure power supply and emergency escape routes. We monitor and remotely control their operation from road traffic centre displays and controllers," explains Seppinen.
The longest tunnel in Finland is the Tampere Rantaväylä tunnel, which is 2.3 kilometres long. It is the first tunnel in Finland to be equipped with a sprinkler system. The tunnel's lighting is whiter than normal yellow thanks to LED lights. Problems in the tunnel are usually caused by a rear-end collision or lane-change collision.
With digitalisation, the transfer of information between transport infrastructure, vehicles and users is evolving rapidly. Intelligent transport is already a reality, and ITM Finland is making it available as open data to private service developers.
Automated vehicles take care of safety lanes, lane changes and speed limits. In the future, the automation will go further and the driver will only need to intervene in exceptional situations.
Audico has signed a framework contract with Traffic Management Finland for AV systems for lightning technology. This involves a gradual upgrade of traffic control equipment not only at ITM Finland, but also at Finrail, which controls the company's rail traffic, VTS Finland, which controls maritime traffic, and ANS Finland, which controls air traffic control.
Jukka Oksanen, Sales Manager for Audico's control room systems, says that the contract obliges the company to provide maintenance and service for the control room workstations and video walls, if necessary, with short response times every day of the year.
"Our contract falls into the so-called criticality category. It does not allow us to be released from our obligations even in the event of force majeure. For example, in the event of a bank rate pandemic," Oksanen points out.
Text by Tom Nyman
Photo by ITM Finland
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