Q&A with Charlotte DOT director, Liz Babson

AIVIA Q&A with Adrian Talbot, Head of Centre of Excellence for Mobility for Ferrovial Group Innovation & Pablo Ferrando, Technical Director for Cintra

Tell us a little bit about your mission at Ferrovial. What current project are you most excited about and why?

Adrian Talbot: Innovation has always been at the heart of what we do at Ferrovial. With technology moving ahead much faster than our infrastructure, our goal is to provide innovative solutions to our clients, projects and the end users – the traveling public. The AIVIA Smart Roads initiative is one of the first comprehensive efforts to develop connected highways, advanced sensorization and simulation technology into a formal specification.

AIVIA takes a long-term, multi-horizon perspective of the evolution of transportation with a focus on delivering infrastructure enhancements that will allow for safer and more convenient roads for all types of users, regardless of the level of autonomy in their vehicles. This is really the future of smart roads and transportation, that will revolutionize the way we move goods and travel.

Pablo Ferrando: I'm excited to be joining my I-77 colleagues in Charlotte and some of the ITS attendees going on a Command Center tour at the start of the conference on our local project. As Adrian mentioned, the AIVIA program has been my primary focus as well over the past year and I’m excited to see it being rolled out on our U.S. concession projects, starting with the the I-66 Outside the Beltway project in Northern Virginia in 2022 to be followed by other projects thereafter .

You are known for your P3 Megaprojects, but what might be interesting to ITS America is your involvement in potential applications for autonomous vehicles. What does Ferrovial provide in this space that makes autonomy a “real thing?”

Adrian Talbot: Before transportation routes become entirely autonomous, there will be a mix of conventional, connected and autonomous vehicles with different capabilities on the roads—and it is the interaction between them that is a cause for concern. Automated vehicles are designed to be consistent and obey the rules while human drivers are more fluid and impulsive – not always in a good way. This is where orchestration and vehicle-to-everything communication will improve the co-existence of conventional and autonomous vehicles – but that needs to be built into the infrastructure in order to be viable. These next 10-20 years will be critical for the long-term success of roadway automation and infrastructure must play its part.

Highway and bridge projects are large, long-term efforts that need a minimum of 3-5 years of impact analysis and design.  Five years is an eternity measured against the rate of technological development. During the time it takes to design, approve and construct a new highway, the mobility requirements and potential solutions are likely to have changed. To ensure proposals meet future needs requires projects to be considerably more flexible and collaborative.

Pablo Ferrando: In the U.S., Ferrovial’s subsidiary Cintra is currently focusing on three primary needs to set this autonomous future in motion (1) Physical infrastructure enhancements,

(2) Improved sensorization and communications, and (3) New software to make sense of the data and to communicate with everyone. The AIVIA Smart Roads is one of the first comprehensive efforts to develop connected highways, advanced sensorization and simulation technology into a formal specification.

As I mentioned, Cintra and its partners are planning the high-tech retrofitting of their Managed Lanes projects in Virginia and Texas in the near term, with some of the measures and the benefits for drivers to become apparent in the next 1-2 years. The 2021-2023 first phase, will include full implementation of advanced sensorization and connectivity to support safety use-cases such as hazard/stopped vehicle detection, wrong way drivers, etc. In addition, highly reflective markings and intelligent signage will augment the safety profile of the facilities.

The point of the AIVIA initiative is not to be a pilot project, but to be the foundation for a continuously evolving specification that is future proofed. We’re not just looking at one point in time, or simply planning the addition of another lane to manage capacity our managed roads. We’re rethinking the measures that drive the evolution of the road with purpose to meet safety, capacity and improved user experience. It’s a product that starts with a set of requirements, then evolves over time so that the AIVIA spec in 2022 will adapt to current needs, conditions and capabilities to 2025, 2030 and beyond.

I’ll talk more about this timeline and our activities at my Education Stage session on December 8 at 3:30 pm. Click here to learn more.

What are you most looking forward to in Charlotte? What can we expect to learn from your team onsite at #ITSA2021?

Pablo Ferrando: From our onsite team, we are announcing new partnerships at ITS, launching our AIVIA interactive experience on the website, as well as having the NTE digital twin experience in the booth. We plan to finish 2021 on a high note in Charlotte and have many exciting things planned for the AIVIA ecosystem in 2022.

Adrian Talbot: I’m looking forward to Charlotte because it is my first trip to the U.S. and in-person conference event since lockdown occurred in March 2020. I will also be presenting on December 9 at 12:30 pm on the Education Stage in the Exhibit Hall with some of our AIVIA business partners, so I hope many of you will join me for that session and be sure to stop by Booth #1013 to learn more and do our interactive experience for yourself.