Objectives of the service
The winter road maintenance domain claims a huge demand of trustworthy but cost-effective technologies allowing for an automatic control of the professional equipment (i.e. snow ploughs, salt spreaders), then optimizing the operations - in terms of effectiveness, timeliness, safety and costs - but avoiding as much as possible any manual intervention of the driver while driving the vehicle.
The ASSIST Feasibility Study intends to investigate a suite of potential high-end innovative services aiming to support the execution of winter road maintenance (in different operational scenarios, e.g. snow ploughing and road icing control) and also to provide an effective assistance to the drivers involved in these activities (through comprehensive information about the “context” in which he/she is operating, including proper and timely alerts) as well as the management overseeing the operations.
These services are enabled by a robust and accurate real-time positioning of the vehicles - based on satellite navigation, e.g. GPS and Galileo - and by road geometry information (e.g. boundaries, centreline, width, slope) and road weather forecast - through integrating Earth Observation with in-situ technologies -, all complemented by a flexible and scalable middleware based on cloud computing technologies.
Users and their needs
The ASSIST users are the winter road maintenance operators, that is the public/private organization actually in charge of performing all the winter maintenance activities (i.e. snow ploughing and road icing control) along a roads network. These users are also the potential ASSIST customers, that pay both for the professional equipment (snow ploughs and salt spreaders) to be installed on their own trucks and for the on-board unit controlling the equipment and enabling a suite of advanced services, with the aim to be properly prepared to carry out the foreseen winter maintenance activities.
Public administration, their public/private contractors as well as concessionaire companies (operating motorways) are then the major ASSIST users.
Two Nordic public administrations (the Swedish Transport Administration and the Norwegian Public Roads Administration) are engaged by ESA in the Feasibility Study: additional users and stakeholders at European level have been contacted providing their commitment to be part of the Feasibility Study.
Service/ system concept
The architectural design goes in direction to realize an end-to-end solution taking advantages on the space assets domain for advanced winter service provisioning. ASSIST strategy proposed to build up a high fidelity and updated model of the road to clear collecting information (in particular Earth Observation and Weather Forecasts) acquired by external service providers in a cloud-computing platform (called Winter Service Middleware). Such model allows evaluating analytically the geo localized work parameters (both in terms of salt spreading and snow plough control) in order to maximize the effectiveness of the winter maintenance treatment. The application of such parameters is in charge to a NAV\COM intelligent device mounted on the truck (called On Board Unit (OBU)) that is able to automatically control the mechanical equipment for the effective actuation. From OBU perspective, the correct application of the working settings relies on the tightly coupled GNSS/INS integration algorithm (based on low cost components), that ensuring a precise and reliable truck positioning.
Thanks to the conceived intelligent system architecture, ASSIST solution integrates additional function blocks (e.g. tracking\telemetry of the trucks, Intelligent Device Management) that permits to provide a comprehensive support to the overall winter maintenance activity.
Space Added Value
The baseline of the satellite navigation solution proposed in ASSIST includes:
- Full support of the multi-constellation GNSS receiver;
- Support of a centralized augmentation middleware;
- Integrity and protection level computation;
- Support of a tight integration between the GNSS receiver and low Costs IMU;
- Integration in the OBU of high resolution road databases.
Moreover, the proposed ASSIST services rely on high resolution images from Earth Observation (EO) satellite, Geographic Information System (GIS) and meteorological modeling technologies. ASSIST OBU system proposed relies on these technologies to:
- Provide and integrate available road centreline network data with road boundary line and other sealed surfaces;
- Provide and integrate weather forecasts and snow information on road level.
The ASSIST Feasibility Study has been concluded in May 2015. A suite of innovative space-based “assistance services” in supporting the major operational scenarios for the winter maintenance (i.e. snow ploughing and road icing control) has been deeply investigated with positive results. The technical feasibility and the users’ acceptance of such services have been assessed through an actual Proof of Concept that took place in the 2014-2015 winter season as an extensive field test campaign in Sweden and a showcase in Norway, with a direct and active involvement of two Nordic public administration and their contractors.
The viability analysis performed during the Feasibility Study confirmed the ASSIST potential, showing benefits coming from its adoption for all key actors of the winter maintenance value chain. The ten years business plan also showed clear opportunities for all partners, especially for Giletta S.p.A. as equipment manufacturer acting as “ASSIST service provider”.
Following the positive feedback on both the technical feasibility and the market attractiveness, almost the same partnership is now fully committed in proposing a 24-month Demonstration Project in sight of the roll out of full operational “assistance services”.