This article was produced and financed by The Research Council of Norway
Productive transport research for 10 more years
“Green waves” for lorries at night, congestion charging for trains, and “smart” freight that finds its own travel route. These are a few of the results of the past eight years of transport research under the SMARTRANS programme.
The Research Council of Norway
Now the Research Council of Norway is launching a new 10-year transport research programme.
Minister of Transport and Communications Ketil Solvik-Olsen was recently presented with the final report from eight years of research conducted under the Programme on Intelligent Freight Transport (SMARTRANS) which is concluding this year.
“This report means we are passing off the baton so to speak. It is important to conclude old programmes and establish new ones that are adapted to new times,” said Anne Sigrid Hamran, outgoing programme board chair, when the report was presented on 21 October 2014.
The conclusion of the SMARTRANS programme signals the start of a new 10-year period of transport research under the Transport 2025 programme, which begins next year.
The SMARTRANS programme has funded 51 R&D projects that have produced 70 finished prototypes and models. Companies and other organisations have contributed NOK 250 million to the programme’s activities, while the Research Council of Norway has allocated NOK 188 million. Most of this funding has come from the Ministry of Transport and Communications.
A boost to the transport industry
According to both the report and an external evaluation of the programme, it has been successful in encouraging the transport industry to take part in R&D projects and it has given a substantial boost to research capacity in the field. This has been critical for an industry that has traditionally had little internal focus on research.
“Things move quickly in our industry. We often have relatively few resource persons available who can be assigned exclusively to conducting R&D, but we need R&D to survive in the long term,” says Ole Andreas Hagen, head of communications and marketing for the communications and logistics company PostNord. Mr Hagen is a member of the Transport 2025 programme board.
Mr Hagen wants to see the industry take a wider perspective that extends beyond daily operations. “As a country where there is a wide range of technology, long distances, and where it is relatively inexpensive to invest in engineers, we have good conditions for conducting R&D activity,” he says.
Important results promote efficiency and protect the environment
The results from eight years of research include the testing of a system that creates a “green wave” for lorries driving through cities at night, methods of monitoring the weight of lorries in asphalt, joint environmental calculators for the transport sector, and “smart” freight that can find the best travel route itself. Congestion charging for railways can help get the most out of existing capacity, and a decision-making support tool for operative railway management can optimise train service and performance.
Research has also shown that Norway could have transported far more fish on trains if the railway had been more accessible and had greater capacity, and if the Nordland railway had been equipped with automatic steering. If all fresh farmed fish were to be transported on trains to Oslo for transfer to motorised vehicles, the transport burden on the environment would be reduced by at least 40 per cent.
Green traffic light waves at night
Senior researcher Solveig Meland of SINTEF Technology and Society has served as project manager for the GOFER project which has studied how models used in air traffic control can be applied to heavy cargo transport in cities.
“Unimpeded travel for lorries at night when there is little traffic will reduce noise, save fuel and protect the environment. Lorry emissions may be reduced by as much as 30 per cent if the drivers can coast through on a green wave. The amount of time en route may be decreased by up to 20 per cent,” she says.
May save NOK 10 million on freight that is “self-routing”
In a project on the automatic tracking of freight, researchers have found that the industry can save NOK 5-10 billion annually by using smarter logistics in freight transport by reducing delays, waste and unnecessary transport.
“Automatic tracking in retail trade is coming on strong, and it has long been predicted that new technology will revolutionise the logistics industry. We have tested how we can read data from flatbed lorries with RFID tags and sensors, follow transports with GPS, and sew the data together in a system,” says research scientist Audun Vennesland of SINTEF ICT in the report.
The sensors, together with advanced mathematical algorithms, allow the cargo to be self-routing, i.e. to find the best possible transport route for the freight – and to report its location as well as any adverse events, for example, if the temperature rises or a crate falls to the ground.
Translated by: Connie Stultz/Carol B. Eckmann