"Creative technologies, including cutting-edge ICT converging technology, will be absolutely needed if we want to change the paradigm of roads to a living space from just transportation infrastructure,” said Lee Eui-jun, the managing director of Korea SMART Highway Study & Application Center in an interview with BusinessKorea. He added, “We should continuously locate new models for transportation system that contribute to making life more convenient and safe by converging IT, telecommunications, automotive technologies and road management.” However, he felt there was a lack of active participation in the smart highway project by local auto manufacturers. What follows are excerpts from the interview.
First of all, what is the definition of the Smart Highway Project and what is its background?
One of the ten key projects launched in 2006 by the Ministry of Construction and Transportation, the predecessor of the Ministry of Land, Infrastructure and Transport, aims to build the world’s most intelligent highways.
These days, approximately 80% of traffic accidents on expressways are attributed to driver negligence and Korea records the lowest level of traffic safety among OECD member countries. The Smart Highway Project aims to reduce the accident rate and help people use expressways more conveniently by converging information, automobile and road management technologies.
The Smart Highway R&D Center is working on innovative technologies in four fields. Please give a brief explanation about these activities.
The Smart Highway Project can be divided into four fields; the development of road-based technology, traffic management technology using wireless communications, automobile-related technology and the application of the research outcomes.
The first one covers safe driving in adverse weather conditions such as fog and snow, the utilization of natural energy sources in the form of natural lighting and the like, and the development of safety structures such as high-performance barriers and road signs with higher legibility. The idea is to achieve the core values of an intelligent highway system, that is, safety, convenience, punctuality and eco-friendliness.
The second part is associated with combining telecommunications technologies with traffic management in order to prevent chain collisions by dint of vehicle-to-vehicle and vehicle-to-base station communications designed to cope with unexpected contingencies in real time. The development of multilane tolling systems, in which tolls can be paid without the need to reduce speed, is also included in this category.
The third one is related to the provision of real-time traffic information for individual cars. In this, comprehensive road and vehicle management systems are established and technologies for lane departure prevention and vehicle control assistance based on roadrelated data developed. The last one is research into how such smart highway technologies can be applied on a commercial scale.
What examples are there of technologies that have been already developed?
As the first example, I would like to mention the Smart-I, the world’s first, and domestically developed, system for automatic incident detection.
The Smart-I monitors expressway sections kilometer by kilometer and provides the administrator with real-time information regarding stone or rock droppings, and broken vehicles, etc. The system is made up of an array of cameras, auto-tracking CCTV and radar. It is capable of detecting such droppings of a minimum size of 30cm within 30 seconds at an accuracy rate of at least 95%.
Once such an unexpected situation is detected, the details need to be transmitted without delay. This is where WAVE, which stands for Wireless Access in Vehicular Environments, comes in. WAVE is the most advanced form of public communications network for road and traffic management. It is used in vehicle-to-vehicle and vehicleto-base station communications in the form of complex base stations accommodating DSRC, WiFi and many other networks.
Last but not least, we have come up with a non-stop, multi-lane smart tolling system. Thanks to this, cars do not have to reduce their speed or change lanes for toll stations. It is the first active-type tolling system in the world, and more improved and efficient than existing Hi-Pass tolling and passive systems found in the United States and Europe.
How great will be the economic ripple effect of these technologies?
Once the smart highway is built nationwide, a variety of industries such as construction and IT will benefit from it through interindustry convergence, with new demands in the sectors predicted to result in a production inducement effect of about 7.8 trillion won, as well as the creation of approximately 40,000 new jobs and traffic informationbased services worth 130 billion won a year. In addition, it is expected to stimulate the growth of other industries like auto manufacturing and intelligent transportation.
The global intelligent transportation market is currently growing by around 10% each year, with the market size estimated to reach US$18.6 billion by 2015. Many emerging countries around the world, including China, Southeast Asian and Latin American nations, are highly interested in Korea’s intelligent transportation systems (ITSs) and we are seeking ways, in tandem with consortiums of construction firms and IT companies, to make profits by launching smart highway construction and management projects in these countries.
What has been the outcome of such efforts up to now and what are you looking forward to down the road?
The Smart Highway R&D Center has built and runs a 7.7km-long test section in the Jungbu Inland Expressway in order to verify its feasibility and increase public awareness.
The organization has come up with five world-class technologies, including the above-mentioned Smart-I, a multi-lane tolling system and active-type defogging system, with approximately 70% of these in the completion stage, just one step ahead of commercial utilization. The other 30%, which have yet to deal with the frequency distribution problem, will be employed for commercial purposes once the distribution of frequency resources dedicated to on-road communications is completed.
In addition to such economic effects, it is anticipated that smart highways will reduce the traffic accident mortality rate by 60% and reduce traffic congestion by 15% or so. We predict that traffic congestion costs will be decreased by at least 200 billion won annually if the Gyeongbu Expressway is turned into a smart highway.
What do you think is the roadblock to the Smart Highway Project and what would you like to say about it?
As I said earlier, a smart highway is a concept of convergence between information, automobile, road construction and management technologies, which means it requires the participation of multiple sectors.
What I would like to say is that road transportation R&D projects underway in advanced economies are led by automakers, yet Korean carmakers are as of now not taking a central role in the Smart Highway Project. Their role is essential for not only the project, but also the development of future road transport technologies, and I believe that their active participation will provide better results.
To expedite the development of WAVE technology, the Ministry of Science, ICT and Future Planning has been running a frequency research team in order to distribute the same frequency band as that used in the US and Europe, and which account for 80% of the global ITS market. I hope that the frequency distribution will be wrapped up smoothly through our negotiations with terrestrial broadcasting companies using the frequency band for mobile broadcasting purposes.