Traffic lab Finland

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Finland has become one of world’s leading test fields for innovative services in traffic and logistics.

For tech-savvy Finns, automated cars on the roads and drones in the skies will soon be commonplace. In Lapland, a unified intelligent traffic ecosystem, named the Aurora Project, will offer testing opportunities for application developers from all over the world.

“We saw quite early that information is the fuel of digital services. Nearly two decades ago, we designed the architecture for modern telecommunication services, and now it is time to revolutionize the transport industry,” says Harri Pursiainen, permanent secretary at the Ministry of Transport and Communications.

In the case of today’s transport policy, social and physical infrastructures are being developed hand in hand.

“We encourage innovation and service platforms in sectors where public administration plays a role in terms of the functioning of the markets,” says Pursiainen.

Mobility as service

One of the sectors Pursiainen refers to is Mobility as a Service (MaaS). It is a mobility distribution model in which a customer’s major transportation needs are met over one interface and offered by a service provider.

The Finnish inventor and developer of MaaS, Sampo Hietanen has much in common with the digital gurus Jeremy Rifkin and Don Tapscott. They all emphasize that we are moving towards a culture of transparency and sharing.

In Hietanen’s vision, the entire transport sector is a cooperative, interconnected ecosystem providing services reflecting the needs of customers. 

“The boundaries between different transport modes are blurred or disappear completely,” he says.

MaaS is enabled by the ubiquity of multiple technologies such as wireless broadband, smartphones and tablets as interfaces, location-based services, and connected cars. Data infrastructure and physical infrastructure together compose the essential platform for mobility services.

Piloting of the MaaS concept as a sub-project of Aurora will begin in the Ylläs region this winter. Aurora will be an internationally unique information-based testing area and competence center for intelligent transport automation in Lapland. 

Many uses for drones

Innovative solutions are being developed to meet the challenges of unmanned aviation, too. Posti Group, the Finnish postal service, is the first company in Europe to experiment with unmanned aerial vehicles (UAV) for mail delivery in an urban area. The first tests with drones took place in September 2015.

As the chairman of the Platform Unmanned Cargo Aircraft PUCA, Dr. Hans Heerkens from the University of Twente, the Netherlands, is trying to solve big design problems in very much the same way they have been solved in Finland’s transport and communication industries.

“Our work is not about designing the aircraft anymore. We have to design the whole ecosystem around it. As the main technical challenges are already solved, all the relevant players such as shippers, freight companies, aircraft manufacturers, air cargo companies, and regulators need to put their heads together and make unmanned cargo aircraft happen,” says Heerkens.

In a globalized world, solutions will be found through international cooperation. In the long run, the best regulation and the best standards will win.

Text by Jorma Leppänen
Photo by iStock

A longer version of this article was originally published in Finnair's Blue Wings magazine (January 2016).

 

Published January 28, 2016

Category: Collaboration, Economy

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