VTI has a well-developed collaboration with other research environments in the EU and also a long tradition of spreading knowledge about traffic safety internationally, especially in countries where traffic safety is low. The Institute is now working in various ways to broaden its global commitment.
One example is the China-Sweden Research Centre for Traffic Safety, a collaborative organisation for research and the exchange of knowledge, in which VTI is included together with other Swedish organisations such as Chalmers and Volvo. The Research Institute of Highways (RIOH), several universities and the vehicle manufacturer Geely are participating from China. The aim is to improve traffic safety in both countries.
“The problem with international collaboration outside the EU framework programme can be funding, but through this organisation and with funding from Vinnova and their Chinese counterpart MoST, we have finally started concrete research,” says Jonas Jansson, Head of research at VTI.
Transport with self-driving vehicles in Sweden and China
There are two projects being carried out in parallel in Sweden and China. Both deal with how the introduction of autonomous vehicles affects traffic and the researchers in the different projects benefit from each other through their close contact during the work.
Niklas Strand, senior researcher and project manager, explains more about the Swedish project, which is called Heterogeneous*, and how collaboration with the Chinese researchers is done.
“Not all vehicles will become self-driving overnight. Instead, for a rather long transition period, traffic will consist of a mixture of autonomous vehicles and vehicles with drivers. The autonomous vehicles will also be automated to varying degrees. There are many parameters that play a role in how traffic will be affected, so research is needed that will try to see into the future.
Until now, researchers and students have performed simulations in computer programs to see what happens to traffic flows and road safety. Preliminary results show that the influence of autonomous vehicles on accidents and incidents depends on the proportion of the vehicle fleet that is self-driving and whether or not there are cooperative (communicating) systems. For example, a small proportion of vehicles that rely on communication with other vehicles could have a negative influence on traffic safety until they reach a sufficiently large proportion to prevent accidents.
Later on, VTI’s driving simulator in Gothenburg will be used for testing with drivers. In China there is a similar simulator at Tongji University in Shanghai.
“The pandemic has to some extent made collaboration more difficult, but the idea is that together we will present results at conferences and jointly write scientific articles that include both projects. Dedicated workshops, where we exchange experiences, are also an important part of the concept,” says Niklas Strand.
Collaboration with India
Jonas Jansson also cites SITIS, Sweden-India Innovation and Safety Partnership, as an example of forward-looking collaboration at international level. As part of SITIS, a research project is planned on how bus traffic between Indian cities can be made safer and more efficient.
“VTI has done a lot of research on public transport and bus drivers, so being able to contribute our expertise to improve bus travel in India is exciting. In the first stage, the project is about defining what the problem areas are and finding methods for collecting and analysing data.”
* The full name of the project is Heterogeneous traffic groups cooperative driving behaviours research under mixed traffic conditions.
VTI, Swedish National Road and Transport Research Institute, Sweden