It’s the mission and responsibility of road authorities in Germany to ensure people can travel safely and efficiently throughout the country’s major road network. This responsibility is handled by regional traffic management teams. Last year a new agency, Autobahn GmbH, was formed to provide centralized oversight covering the various regional entities. Through the Autobahn project, German transport authorities turned to PTV Group and TomTom for the data and tools needed to transform safety on German roads.
With a total length of approximately 13,000 kilometers (8,077 miles), the German motorway (Autobahnen) network forms an important part of the road transport infrastructure in the country. Due to Germany's central location in Europe, many of the country’s motorway sections are important for the trans-European road transport network.
Until 2017, 12 of the 16 German states — rather than the federal government — were responsible for the administration of the major motorways. Since 2021, Autobahn GmbH, based in Berlin, has assumed overall responsibility for the administration of major motorways in Germany. Autobahn GmbH works with the states to make planning, financing, operation, expansion and maintenance of these motorways faster and more efficient.
There were two essential concerns that Autobahn GmbH needed to address early on, though.
Much of the road infrastructure controlled by Autobahn GmbH was installed between the 1960s and 1980s. The roads need constant maintenance. New pavement must be laid down, bridges repaired or replaced and modern safety measures must be added.
This maintenance can wreak havoc if not managed appropriately. And with road construction sites comes an increased risk of traffic jams and vehicle accidents. So, Autobahn’s first concern was gaining access to traffic management tools that provide real-time and historical views of the network to help mitigate road incidents and better maintain safety.
The agency’s second concern was in professional staffing, which was brought to light during the recent COVID-19 pandemic. Managing road networks requires complex, varied and specialized skill sets.
Training traffic management staff is time-consuming. Authorities were concerned what would happen if an entire regional management team became sick for an extended period. In addition, each state administration used to have its own traffic management system.
As a consequence, teams would not have been able to help each other out if an entire regional management team fell ill for an extended period of time.
The future strategy of Autobahn GmbH envisages uniform systems in which the teams with their qualified staff can substitute for each other supra-regionally in times of crisis, and ensure traffic keeps moving smoothly.
Since the beginning of 2021, VZD Verkehrszentrale Deutschland – the Traffic Control Center Germany, belonging to Autobahn GmbH – has been working with traffic specialist PTV Group and data provider TomTom.
Together, the two companies provide VZD with real-time travel times based on the measurement of the movement of millions of vehicles. In addition, VZD receives the resulting historical data. Dashboards enable the traffic center to get a complete overview of the traffic situation at any time.
In this way, VZD uses real-time travel data to be able to intervene operationally with appropriate traffic control measures. If traffic is diverted or slowed during road works or incidents, the resulting impact is visible firsthand in real time, allowing traffic managers to proactively reroute vehicles.
An image of a traffic control center in Hamburg. Credit: PTV Group.
PTV Group has been using TomTom data for over 10 years. There’s been a steady improvement in data quality over that timeframe. PTV Group’s collaboration with TomTom has helped generate and develop new business opportunities. TomTom data contributes to the continuous improvement of PTV Group's products and solutions, too.
“We provide technology to improve the safety and efficiency of public roads, as evidenced by our work with Autobahn GmbH in Germany,” states Karin Hitscherich, Senior Project Manager of PTV Group.
“TomTom is a trusted partner offering the highest quality and currency in map and traffic data. Together we’re making road travel safer and more efficient.”
The Autobahn project is still in its early stages, but progress so far is encouraging. Using PTV Group software and TomTom traffic data, Autobahn can access a broad view of the road network and the impact of bottlenecks and roadworks, allowing them to anticipate and implement traffic mitigation measures.
Road authorities are better informed, leading to more educated decision-making when it comes to infrastructure upgrades. The mission and responsibility of safe and efficient transport is being realized through real-time data.PTV Group also supports transport modelling. It uses TomTom historical traffic data for before/after analysis. This analysis allows for a historical view on a monthly frequency of average speeds on specified motorway stretches, and to assess the resulting impact of roadworks (i.e., bridge outage).
All these evaluations, delivered monthly to the administrative heads, can be made in relation to individual motorways or for all routes of a subsidiary.