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AURORA – The Arctic Intelligent Transport Test Ecosystem

Jan 2017 | No Comment
The unique Arctic Intelligent Transport Test Ecosystem Aurora being built in Fell Lapland region of Finland promises to offer most certainly cold conditions for testing automated driving and ITS solutions

Alina Koskela

Project Manager, Aurora Snowbox, Mobility management and ITS, Finnish Transport Agency, Helsinki, Finland

Situated above the Arctic circle, the Northern Part of Finland called Lapland, is known for its unique knowhow in technologies dealing with snow, ice and cold. This is not suprising taken into account that winter lasts here for more than 6 months and snow tchikness rises up to 1 metre. With temperatures going down to as low as -40 celcius and polar night lasting for 25 days, the region is more than suitable for winter and extreme weather testing of new technologies. The potential of the natural conditions in the Arctic is now being exploited to solve the challenges that self-driving vehicles and intelligent transport systems will have to face in harsh weather conditions. The unique Arctic Intelligent Transport Test Ecosystem Aurora being built in Fell Lapland region of Finland promises to offer most certainly cold conditions for testing automated driving and ITS solutions.

The idea behind Aurora is that intelligent transport is not just for the good days. In order for intelligent transport automation and particularly self-driving vehicles to develop and become more common, the technologies will have to learn to deal also with unseasonal weather changes as well as with harsh weather climates. That is why the Aurora test ecosystem was designed for verifying and validating new ITS solutions and innovations in real extreme weather conditions. Initiated as a Finnish public-private partnership Aurora is an open platform for interested parties to join. With more than 40 network members Aurora is successfully bringing together private and public sector to cooperate, demonstrate and pilot new technologies in a multilevel Arctic test bed.

The arctic test ecosystem

Safety and reliability of self-driving technologies are the key factors for user acceptance and usage of self-driving vehicles to become wide-spread in the near future. Most of the testing is currently carried out in easy environments without major weather and climate hazards, but selfdriving vehicles need to be able to operate also in conditions of ice and snow-covered roads, without visible lane markings and road routes narrowed down by piles of snow. Without these characteristics self-driving vehicles will not only be able to reliably operate in Finland, but also everywhere else where snowing occurs even occasionally.

In order to move from the automated to snowtomated driving, the Aurora test ecosystem enables multilevel testing in real Arctic conditions to push these technologies to the limit. Firstly, the tests can be carried out on safe and secured private test tracks closed from traffic and suitable even for early phase prototype testing. Secondly, tests can be continued, paired or duplicated on public roads as the Finnish legislation already facilitates testing of automated vehicles in regular traffic. Testing of automated vehicles (SAE levels 0 – 5) is possible in road traffic in Finland using a test plate certificate. In testing automated vehicles, the vehicle must have a driver either inside or outside the vehicle. In liability issues, the driver is the person who makes decisions on the movement of the vehicle.

The public test area on main road E8

On top of the above mentioned testing possibilities, those coming to test in the Aurora test ecosystem will be able to make use of a public test area that is currently being built on main road E8. The test stretch of 9 km is being equipped and instrumented in order to support the needs of the testers within Aurora. Equipment and instrumentation of the stretch is carried out in close cooperation with the private sector and bases on actual needs of the testers. The public test area is planned to be ready and open for public use in early fall 2017 and it will include services of precise positioning, fibre connection, extensive high speed 3G/4G/LTE 800 mobile networks as well as on-demand 5G test network. In addition to the physical instrumentation, testers will be able to utilize high definition 3D maps of the test area to trial out performance of automated vehicles based on pre-collected data.

The public test area is an open platform for demonstrating and piloting performance of automated vehicles but also solutions for connected cars and new mobility services. In addition the test section will be used by public road authorities to monitor and survey the impact of automated driving on the road as well as potential of automated technologies in intelligent infrastructure asset management.

ITS reindeer warning system to half reindeer accidents

The Aurora test ecosystem enables testing of digital transport infrastructure (DTI) and connected cars initiatives. DTI and connected cars allow transport-related message delivery between the road users, the service providers and the authorities in a standard telecom network. One of the first DTI pilots in Aurora is the reindeer warning system pilot project which is carried out in years 2016 – 2017.

Reindeer husbandry area covers 36 % of Finland’s area. Within this area there has occurred approximately 3 500 – 4 500 accidents every year involving reindeer and road vehicles. In the year 2011 the number of reindeer accidents came up to 4 624. Although traffic safety overall in the transport sector of Finland has increased, the number of reindeer accidents has remained high. Reindeer accidents result annually in 2.6 million € of compensations for reindeer owners, and approximately 15-20 million € spent in vehicle repairs. Figures do not include lost profit of deceased reindeer or time of professional vehicles spent in the garage instead of productive operation.

Typical way to warn drivers is with a road sign for reindeer. The impact of a static sign wears off in time because reindeer migrate between the winter and summer grazing grounds, but are not always on the road. Instead of giving static information of reindeers being spotted, the pilot project of reindeer warning system crowdsources the information of reindeer observations.With the help of smartphone applications professional drivers and road users will be able to send reindeer warnings to other road users in case they observe a reindeer on the road. As reindeer tend to roam around the same location for some time, other road users within the same geozone will receive a notification of reindeers being spotted on the road. Since August 2016 already 82 000 warnings have gone through the system increasing road traffic safety level of road users in the reindeer husbandry area. The project is implemented in cooperation with the Centre for Economic Development, Transport and the Environment of Lapland, the Finnish Transport Agency, the Reindeer Herders’ Association, Paikkatieto Online Oy, HERE and V-traffic Mediamobile.

Mobility as a service pilot in Ylläs holiday resort

The principle of Mobility as a Service (MaaS) is to move towards more flexible and integrated services, building a network that is service-oriented and demanddriven, while providing a wider range of more flexible services to customers, but in a more environmentally friendly way. Ylläs ski resort is the oldest in the Finnish Fell Lapland, situated around 200km above the Arctic Circle. The resort is based around two traditional villages, Äkäslompolo and Ylläsjärvi, located on the opposite sides of the Ylläs fell. The fixed population of the area is approximately 1100, but in the tourist season, the population expands dramatically, filling most of the 23 000 beds available across several hotels and hundreds of log cabins spread arou nd the countryside.

The Ylläs Mobility as s Service pilot project (YlläsMaaS) aims at flexible and affordable mobility services for tourist and locals without car dependency in the Ylläs area. The starting objective of the two-staged project is to deliver an integrated transport information system, along with automated finance management and fund distribution. During spring 2016 mobility services where offered via Ylläs Around application powered by telecom operator TeliaSonera.

The focus of the first stage was on the final legs of transportation to the Ylläs villages from both the airport and the railway station, and on the transportation within the area. Transport services were offered by local taxis, ski busses and feeder transport between the airport and Ylläs as well as between the railway station and Ylläs. Also shared taxi rides at a reduced price were available to the users. The variety of mobility services available for purchase is increasing for the second pilot stage starting at the end of 2016. The pilot project is implemented in cooperation with the Finnish Transport Agency, the Municipality of Kolari, the Ylläs Travel Association and Sonera.

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