Innovation

Innovation, research and development

The world of mobility is undergoing a phase of profound and rapid change, a technological revolution driven by the energy transition, the development of assisted, autonomous and connected vehicle driving technologies and the many applications of innovative mobility services (Multimodal Digital Mobility Services) for the customer.

The Group’s innovation, research and development activities aim to develop solutions designed to enhance the quality of the motorway service. This includes projects designed to:

  • guarantee 360° safety on roads, at construction sites and at places of work;
  • ensure the highest quality standards throughout the value chain, from planning to execution and operation, including via the use of advanced analytical models and innovative infrastructure representation tools (BIM 3D-Building Information Technology);
  • strengthen our commitment to digitalisation in order to improve the operational management of infrastructure and the efficiency of transport;
  • "put the customer first", by offering new services to travellers throughout their journeys;
  • develop a green and smart mobility for the future, in accordance with sustainability criteria.

Innovation, research and development in 2021

Innovation, research and development in 2021
approximately

30m(1)

+ 11 mln € vs. 2020
(1) This sum represents the total amount spent on research and development, including operating costs, staff costs and capital expenditure.

These activities, some of which are long-term in nature, are undertaken by the relevant departments, generally in synergy with Group companies, and on occasion in collaboration with national and international research centres and universities or, in certain cases, industrial partners. Numerous projects were carried out in 2021, some of which were co-financed at EU level.

The activities completed and/or that entered production in 2021 include:

  • implementation of a cashback scheme for road users affected by construction site delays on motorways;
  • implementation of the IBM Maximo Enterprise Asset Management system for innovative management of concession assets and enhancement of data assets;
  • digitisation of registration and supervision procedures for bridges and viaducts;
  • trials of vehicle category detection systems for tolling;
  • new functions for monitoring and providing services to service area users, with the aim of improving the level of safety, offering innovative services, and improving the user experience of existing services, including providing support to operators;
  • trialling the use of G5 technology, for implementation of C-ITS services (Cooperative ITS), to be provided to the vehicles of users with the necessary equipment;
  • the installation of electric charging points at service areas.
Innovazione

The Mercury programme

The Mercury programme

The Group has launched the Mercury programme to ensure that we assume a leadership role in the revolution affecting the people that use our network, but that involves the entire Italian and European industrial system. The Mercury programme is divided into five macro-areas based around system innovations:

Intelligent Roads

Intelligent Roads

A set of road improvement initiatives designed to boost the safety of road users, the control of traffic flow and the provision of information and assistance.
Connected Infrastructure

Connected Infrastructure

The technology that enables all other initiatives. This includes the dissemination of sensors and data transmission systems on the network, the implementation of central units for the collection, storage and forecasting of traffic data, services and information exchange systems for the management of road operations, the management of Variable Message Panels and radio App channels.
Flexible pricing

Flexible pricing

A set of initiatives in the field of digitisation and automation of collection systems that will make it possible to expand and simplify payment methods, transforming tolls into a policy tool (pricing) to reduce congestion and encourage sustainable and multimodal behaviours.
Urban Mobility

Urban Mobility

A set of systems connecting the motorway network to mobility systems in metropolitan areas by customising trips, the booking and payment of parking, the use of MaaS (Mobility as a Service) systems and optimisation of traffic light controls for passenger and freight traffic in urban areas.
Green Solutions

Green Solutions

A set of projects aimed at accompanying the energy transition, through the widespread installation of high-intensity electric charging stations, compressed hydrogen and LNG distribution and the generation of electricity from renewable sources.

The Mercury programme and the projects it includes are open and constantly evolving, as are the technological solutions on which it is based.

In the field of research and development, Autostrade per l'Italia has also activated through Movyon a series of initiatives ranging from research in the field of alternative energies and reuse of materials to infrastructure monitoring and traffic management.

Current projects include:

Research project on the generation of electricity from vehicular traffic

The KEHV (Kinetic Energy Harvesting from passing Vehicles) project aims to exploit the energy harvested from vehicles at points where they naturally slow down or are forced to slow for safety reasons (e.g., when entering service areas or accessing an electronic tolling lane). The research focuses on development of a new alternative form of generation that transforms the kinetic energy that would be dissipated as heat into electricity.

In addition to offering clear advantages with respect to solar energy (such as, for example, the reduced amount of land occupied and that fact that it is not dependent on weather conditions), the technology on which the production of energy from traffic is based can also be integrated into smart city systems. Its particular nature means that it can be perfectly integrated with existing and future photovoltaic production systems to create a power generation mix that is as stable and continuous as possible.

Research project on predictive maintenance using sensors in tunnels

This research project aims to develop models and algorithms capable of predicting the operational degradation of sensors that provide the data used to calculate tunnel service levels. A lowering of these levels leads to the implementation of actions with a major impact on traffic (e.g., lane closures), which have a range of implications: queues and therefore more pollution, increased accident risk, more workers on the motorway and therefore a greater risk of workplace accidents.

The work focuses on the analysis of data communicated by different types and different models of sensor, the study of possible correlations and the development of algorithms that anticipate failures, allowing for preventive rather than reactive intervention. A further objective is the modelling and implementation of a dynamic risk index calculation function associated with each specific tunnel and integrated with traffic in real time.

Research project on the environmental impact of the asphalt lifecycle

The production, use and removal of asphalt involves environmental impacts in terms of emissions, resource consumption, the waste generated and its management.

Movyon's R&D team has created the Environmental Asphalt Rating (EAR) index, which will allow the environmental impact of the bitumen proposed by companies to be assessed during the tender process. This index is based on the assessment of three key categories: emissions, resource consumption (materials and energy) and waste reuse. The three categories apply to all phases of the asphalt lifecycle: transport, use, end-of-life and potential for reuse/recycling.

The EAR index will be integrated into the proprietary platform that Autostrade per l'Italia and Movyon are developing for the management of pavement work, known as the Pavement Management System. The index will become one of the tools Autostrade per l'Italia will use to choose asphalt suppliers and will also indicate to suppliers or Group companies in which phases of the lifecycle they should intervene to reduce the environmental impacts.

Research project on the use of drones in inspections

The project aims to innovate inspection processes carried out through the use of drones. Drones allow periodic inspections of works to be carried out remotely and play a primary role in generating the digital twin of the work, while minimising risks for operators and users. Each piece of information acquired is geolocated and integrated within the asset management system, to then be easily used by the manager. The same drones are also used for the automatic detection of defects on the works, exploiting the full potential of innovative artificial intelligence algorithms that allow to recognise and classify with high reliability different types of defects.

Autostrade per l'Italia manages these initiatives with an Open Innovation approach open to collaboration with universities and research centers, technological incubators and start-ups to ensure that these initiatives generate value for the communities and all the stakeholders involved.