Talking Futures #3: Infrastructures applied to safety

Enrique Díaz-Barceló Suanzes

Marketing & Communications

Last week we enjoyed at the Mormedi headquarters the third edition of “Talking Futures”, our series of short conversations about trends that are changing the world and that expand infinitely into the future.

We were lucky to have the presence and opinion of Dimitris Bountolos, Chief Information & Innovation Officer at Ferrovial, a benchmark in the infrastructure sector.

In the conversation, based on our Trend Cards, Dimitris talked about the “Intelligent safety” trend after the questions our Director of Brand and Digital Strategy, Joe Lozano, asked him.

You can listen to the full interview on Spotify and on Ivoox, and watch it on our YouTube channel. Here we collect some interesting excerpts from what Dimitris shared with us.

Why have you chosen this trend?

Because it is the least sexy. Everyone talks about “autonomous driving”, everyone has very high expectations of the new “onboard retail”, closely linked to autonomous driving and allowing you to get away from the wheel, creating a space and use of it, and everyone tries to monetize it. But the component of how technology can be able to reduce accidents in a consistent way regardless of the method of transport is also a revolution. It seems that it has a second order of importance, it is not so evident, or it has fewer incentives, and we think that we have an additional responsibility.

We are spending a lot of time thinking about how we can make it easier for this improvement or extension of "safety" to come not only from the vehicles but also from the infrastructure, which was not usually an ally. And we are seeing how the ecosystem, that "situational awareness" or this amplification of information in which you can gain a few seconds of advantage in advance before an accident can be generated or you have a decision that is very complex for the human being… We are spending a lot of time on it.

What are you doing?

In different ways, from the infrastructure, turn it into an ally. (…) One of the first decisions is: why don't we digitize the infrastructure and in that digital replica begin to incorporate mechanisms that can give the vehicle an "amplified situational awareness"? Why are we not able to define a standard that transmits the information of traffic signs, static or dynamic, in advance?

What we did was embark on a project to digitize the physical infrastructure, define models in which we could simulate multiple scenarios, create algorithms in which, with our cameras and the "footprint" we have of years in our assets, we could identify which use cases we could be developing with a link to “safety”, and then train those algorithms, creating images and synthetic environments to improve some use cases.

What we realized is that we could make these use cases available through microservices or APIs and try to connect them to a value chain in which, when the vehicle was not yet ready, you could have a much more effective dynamic management in the panels, elevate that information to a control center to make much more robust decisions, connect with actors such as the browsers that today try, in a collaborative way, such as Waze and others, and get closer to the vehicle, which was the ultimate goal: that the vehicle, either with assistance or with an orchestration that uses that input to make a decision, such as slowing down or braking, will reduce the degree of freedom that today a human is unable to manage when you are putting pressure on them to socialize inside the vehicle or do things other than driving.

We have 14 or 15 use cases, from the simplest: an object in the middle of the highway, a kamikaze in the opposite direction, in an addition to a central road where there is a high density of traffic, to have the reference if I have to slow down or not, doing the calculation not by what I see but by what I tell you; and that can even make circumstances not so directly linked to safety but to the capacity of the road, moreover, improve.

What do you think is the trend of smart cities today?

Especially that there is a lot of sensitivity. The pressure to reduce the accident rate in mobility, interurban or urban, is increasing. It is inconceivable that we have smart devices that have not been applied to something as valuable as life. (…)

The cities already had a history of years trying to identify what mechanisms they could deploy. In intercity environments and arrival arteries it was not so common. There are standards, and this is very important. Today, to a large extent, car manufacturers have realized that the vehicle is increasingly a commodity and that the differentiation of one model from another model, of one brand from another brand, relies more on digital and less on the physical. (…)

The automobile industry has not made much sense for many years to develop its competitiveness through a product that is commercially differentiated from the point of view of service. And today, through digital, having recurring updates, being connected and waiting for things to happen during the life cycle of the vehicle is a “must”. The vehicle is worth more as time goes by or it is worth less if it does not incorporate certain issues.

How do you see this trend in the medium term?

I think it will incorporate more of the "behavioral" of the user, whether or not they have less and less involvement as a driver. I believe that the behavior patterns associated with what I do and how I do it, with a dynamic in which the camera inside has certain sensors to see if I am tired, tracking such delicate aspects as being affected by alcoholic substances that reduce your cognitive ability… is a complementary area to what I have told you. (…)

Today there are models in which "safety" can become a reward if you have objective patterns linked to acceleration, braking, the use of certain signals, anticipation when making certain gestures… There is a point of complicity with the driver in which being aware of what he is doing and knowing that he can have a reward and have passive elements that are monitoring him, and that this does not generate friction due to the exposure he may have, is a second evolution of what we are proposing.

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