PSI Blog

Freshness Guarenteed - Predicting Transport Times Using Artificial Intelligence

23/07/2018 - Artificial Intelligence, Transport, Research

Have you ever seen the Northern Lights, also known as Aurora Borealis? A bright, fascinating spectacle of nature, illuminating the sky in the North in the dark months of winter? Was it the relation to this phenomenon that gave a new R&D project of the Norwegian Public Roads Association NPRA for intelligent transport its name Borealis?

The route along the E8 chosen for the cooperative research projects © NPRA (Norwegian Public Roads Administration)
The route along the E8 chosen for the cooperative research projects © NPRA (Norwegian Public Roads Administration)

A good transport system should have the following features and priorities:

  • Safety and security

  • Reliability - capable of delivering goods in the required condition

  • Speed - relaying goods within the required time

  • Affordable

These are only some out of many more aspects which must be considered and taken care of in the process of getting goods and products to their destination or interim destination safely. The supplier is able to control some of these points but has no control over yet over the influence of various other aspects and circumstances on the criteria mentioned above.

Safe and efficient transport in the wintery North

Transport on the E8 in winter © NPRA (Norwegian Public Roads Administration)
Transport on the E8 in winter © NPRA (Norwegian Public Roads Administration)

The weather along the E8 in the Norwegian Skibotn Valley, 150 km (93 mi) from the Artic Circle, is rough. On average, winter lasts from November to April, with constant temperatures below absolute zero causing heavy snow fall and snow drifts, strong winds and icy roads.

The highway, with a length of 1,410 km (880 mi), stretches from Tromsø in the North of Norway to Turku, an important commercial seaport in the southwest of Finland. It also passes by the international airport of Helsinki. The E8 is therefore an important transport route with a 70% and growing share of heavy traffic. The road section between Skibotn village in Norway and Kolari in Finland was chosen for cooperative Intelligent Transport System (ITS) projects of both countries because of its demanding weather conditions and its economic significance to the area.

The respective project names Aurora and Borealis form the Latin name for the Northern Lights and which further symbolizes the importance of intelligent transport solutions as good guidance across national borders.

The route from Skibotn to Kilpisjärvi

Transport corridors and international cooperation © NPRA (Norwegian Public Roads Administration)
Transport corridors and international cooperation © NPRA (Norwegian Public Roads Administration)

On May 8th 2018, following an official ceremony in Skibotn Valley, General Director Terje Gustavsen of the Norwegian Public Roads Administration NPRA and several other Norwegian and Finnish government officials started the Borealis research project for the launch and trial of ITS solutions.

The project is one of six innovation projects under development on the E8 corridor. It is part of a part of the Nordicway 2 project co-financed by the European Union within the Connecting Europe Facility (CEF) funding programme.

The keyword for transportation in the 21st century is choice.

PSI supplies a system with pro-active and collaborative traffic management by multi-criteria decision support (PSIroads/MDS) for monitoring and controlling the traffic flows along the E8.

In the future it will determine the prediction of travel times, taking into account weather conditions and winter services in order to enable the production industry to better plan and coordinate transportation especially of critical goods such as fresh salmon.

For suppliers of perishable goods safe and efficient transportation is crucial, inevitable even. The freshness of such products must be ensured at all times as their resale price is heavily dependent on it. Even short delays can cause a drop in quality and consequently a decline in prices.

The transport route of fresh fish from Norway to Japan © NPRA (Norwegian Public Roads Administration)
The transport route of fresh fish from Norway to Japan © NPRA (Norwegian Public Roads Administration)

Better predictions with the help of Artificial Intelligence

In addition to the decision support software which has already been integrated into the system, so called Convolutional Neuro Networks (CNN) will be implemented. In the Borealis project CNN is used to continuously record camera images at important points along the route. The condition of the road surface will be extracted from these images.

This information, together with locally measured and forecast weather data from the Norwegian Metrological Institute as well as further input data, will be used for the prediction of travel times along the E8.

An overview over the general approach of the Borealis project © PSI Mines&Roads
An overview over the general approach of the Borealis project © PSI Mines&Roads

The research project is another important strategic milestone for PSI Mines&Roads and strenghtens the development of complementary traffic management solutions based on Artifical Intelligence (AI).

Elmar Jaeker, Managing Director at PSI Mines&Roads

Mr Jaeker is a graduate electrical engineer of RWTH Aachen with a diploma in Electrical Engineering and Digital Signal Processing of Università degli Studi di Firenze. He started his career at PSI Software AG in 1996 and became head of the Traffic Telematics & Maintenance Department at PSI Mines&Roads in 2012. Since 2017 he is also the Managing Director.


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