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Autostrade Tech: Providing timely, detailed travel information with Google Maps Platform

About Autostrade Tech

Autostrade Tech is the tech branch of Autostrade per l’Italia, which manages 60% of Italian highway infrastructure. Describing itself as an “Intelligent Transport Systems (ITS) one-stop shop”, the company draws on its technical expertise to provide highway operators and government authorities with innovative solutions for toll collection, safety and road network management, and monitoring systems.

Industries: Technology
Location: Italy

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Autostrade Tech uses Google Maps Platform to monitor traffic flow in detail, provide timely solutions to road users, and expand its geographical reach while keeping infrastructure costs low.

Results:

  • Provides localized, real-time data for 60% of the Italian highway network.
  • Helps provide a more comprehensive service, including alternative route information in case of traffic incidents Improves ability to provide solutions in critical situations
  • Improves ability to provide solutions in critical situations

More specific monitoring without investing in infrastructure

The highway system as we know it today was conceived at the beginning of the twentieth century with the aim of getting people from A to B in less time, safely and comfortably. With the number of cars on the road worldwide expected to hit 1.8 billion in 2035, the need for innovative traffic management solutions is more relevant than ever.

“I have more than thirty years’ experience in highway technology,” says Filippo Baccani, Senior Project Manager at Autostrade Tech, a branch of Autostrade per l’Italia, which manages 60% of Italian highway infrastructure, “and one thing I can tell you is that things are progressing at the speed of light.”

Autostrade Tech supports its parent company by providing highway operators and regional authorities with solutions for real-time traffic management, which include systems for retrieving and monitoring information from road infrastructure such as cameras, toll gates and traffic sensors, and other data sources. It offers comprehensive platforms such as the Integrated Viability System, which supports application modules for specific services such as winter operations, SOS calls and highway display panels, but also tailors products to suit individual clients’ requirements. Travel information is provided to drivers via highway display panels or variable message signs. To offer its clients the accurate, real-time traffic information that road users have come to expect in an increasingly connected world, Autostrade Tech relies on Google Maps Platform.

“Google Maps data is very specific, enabling us to monitor traffic flow mile per mile in a way we couldn’t before. We can now go into much more detail about what’s happening on a certain stretch of road at a given time, including slowdowns and delays.”

Alessandro Pellegrini, Senior Analyst, Autostrade Tech

Providing accurate, real-time travel information

In the late 1980s, Autostrade per l’Italia developed the electronic toll collection system Telepass, an on-board unit (OBU) system mounted on car windscreens which measures, anonymously and on a statistical basis, vehicle speed between two toll booths. Recognizing the need for more precise real-time data in busy traffic zones and during rush hours, Autostrade Tech started working with Google Maps Platform. “Before, we were mainly using Telepass data to measure and estimate highway traffic,” explains Filippo. “With Google Maps Platform, we’ve been able to expand our offering and provide our clients with highly accurate information and a more comprehensive service.”

The company uses the Directions API to compute direction data and gather information about the most efficient routes to take. “The Directions API provides richly-detailed data on traffic levels just about anywhere, which means we can develop road monitoring applications without having to carry out surveys or purchase local cartography,“ says Alessandro Pellegrini, Senior Analyst at Autostrade Tech. The team also uses the Maps JavaScript API to produce customized interfaces that can be used to track vehicles or give a comprehensive overview of a traffic situation in a specific area.

“Another benefit of using Google Maps Platform data is knowing that the information on the highway display panels provided by our clients will mirror what people see on their smartphone apps. Panels aren’t going to cause any confusion by giving road users different travel time estimates,” Alessandro adds. “Everything’s clear and consistent.”

“The Directions API provides richly-detailed data on traffic levels just about anywhere, which means we can develop road monitoring applications without having to carry out surveys or purchase local cartography.“

Alessandro Pellegrini, Senior Analyst, Autostrade Tech

Drilling down with detailed local data

Autostrade Tech provides traffic monitoring services to the regional authorities that manage major arteries, such as the busy “FI-PI-LI” road that links the Tuscan capital of Florence to the coastal city of Livorno, and serves 40,000 commuters and holiday-makers per day. “Google Maps data is very specific, enabling us to monitor traffic flow mile per mile in a way we couldn’t before. We can now go into much more detail about what’s happening on a certain stretch of road at a given time, including slowdowns and delays,” Alessandro says.

Google Maps Platform has enabled the company to provide services that include monitoring of alternative routes in case of congestion or accidents. “The data we collect internally measures travel times and the number of vehicles on the road. What it doesn’t do is tell us about the state of alternative routes when there’s a jam or accident and what are the best options in terms of travel time. That’s something that our clients are now able to deliver to road users,” Filippo says.

What’s more, clients are increasingly requesting services that provide information about routes outside the highway network. “Autostrade Tech doesn’t have monitoring tools outside the autostrade. With Google Maps Platform, we can offer a more comprehensive end product without having to invest in further infrastructure,” Alessandro says.

Offering swift responses

In 2018, following the Genoa tragedy, Autostrade Tech contributed to tackling the emergency, by analyzing traffic flows to help Autostrade per l’Italia’s traffic units find alternative routes outside the network, and showing them where best to direct vehicles. It did this through real-time traffic monitoring based on a control panel using Google Maps data. “It was a complex experience, but thanks to the applied technology, we were able to lend our greatest efforts to mitigate the significant effects of that event on the city’s traffic."

Autostrade Tech continued to provide solutions in the months that followed. Each December, millions of Italians take to the roads to spend the holiday season with their families, raising concerns about congestion on the highway network even at the best of times. In December 2018, regional authorities in Liguria reached out to Autostrade Tech to request a monitoring console for the region’s main arteries, which were still experiencing disruption after the disaster. The company was able to deliver within two days. “We would never have been able to do it if we hadn’t had Google Maps data to hand,’” Alessandro says.

“Our clients expect high quality data, and that’s what we give them. Working with Google Maps Platform was a strategic choice that has allowed us to expand our offer and our ability to provide high value services.”

Alessandro Pellegrini, Senior Analyst, Autostrade Tech

What’s next: Keeping winter roads safe with smart vehicles

The company is looking forward to expanding its smart vehicle offering at some point in the future. “It’s early days, but this is obviously a really interesting development. Smart vehicles, individual cars, and maintenance vehicles will be able to interact with each other, with drivers, and with roadway infrastructure,” Alessandro says.

“We have lots of ideas in the pipeline,” Filippo continues. “For example, we’ve been looking at the possibility of working with Google Cloud Premier Partner Noovle on voice control services that would enable operators to issue commands and feedback directly to on-board devices.”

He adds that this could be especially interesting when it comes to winter operations monitoring. “When it snows heavily, snow ploughs operate in groups and there has to be a fixed distance between vehicles. This requires a high level of coordination, which we could enable via voice control tools such as Google Cloud Speech-to-Text API.”

“Adopting Google Maps Platform has been a big leap forward for us,” Alessandro concludes. “Our clients expect high quality data, and that’s what we give them. Working with Google Maps Platform was a strategic choice that has allowed us to expand our offer and our ability to provide high value services. We believe that in the years to come, Google will continue to play a big role in the information services we offer.”

Tell us your challenge. We're here to help.

Contact us

About Autostrade Tech

Autostrade Tech is the tech branch of Autostrade per l’Italia, which manages 60% of Italian highway infrastructure. Describing itself as an “Intelligent Transport Systems (ITS) one-stop shop”, the company draws on its technical expertise to provide highway operators and government authorities with innovative solutions for toll collection, safety and road network management, and monitoring systems.

Industries: Technology
Location: Italy