Exhaust gas: IT should provide clean air

With data, many problems of the car industry are to be solved. They may also help reduce emissions.
Exhaust: Many diesel vehicles exceed the permitted limits in everyday operation.(Photo: Audi)

At the peak hours is a lot going on in German cities. The cars push each other step by step across the streets. In many places the permissible limit values ​​for emissions are exceeded, for example at the Neckartor in Stuttgart. There, the city has already tried a lot, from walls with special moss to street cleaning machines. The traffic itself, however, is no less. Environmental associations are always complaining about the right to clean air. Courts often give them justice. In the meantime, a driving ban for older diesel models is threatening in Stuttgart.

The city is already experimenting with real-time data from traffic. The information is interesting not only for municipalities: car manufacturers as well as IT companies are discovering new business in traffic forecasts. The future vision of the carers is that autonomously controlling vehicles will in future warn each other of traffic jams, but also of possible hazards such as ice or wet roads. Mamatha Chamarthi, "Chief Digital Officer" at the automotive supplier ZF, has recently named the way to zero accidents and zero emissions.

More data - better navigation

So-called floating car data - current GPS data from traffic users - are collected so far in order to present the current traffic situation. In Germany the data is anonymised, information about the driver or the type of drive are not included. Nevertheless: "The Floating Car Data is getting better and more and more consistent with the observations on our own cameras and measuring points," says Ralf Thomas, Head of the Traffic Control Center in Stuttgart. "The improved data base gives the navigation systems more accurate information for route guidance," he explains.
In Stuttgart, the data in a pilot project has already been enriched with information from traffic planners. Navigation systems were provided with information on the technical measures used to control traffic due to congestion, events or construction sites. If, for example, the access road was regulated by traffic lights to prevent traffic jamming in a tunnel, the navigation system did not normally notice this. The system was able to react earlier with information from the traffic planners. "The more data is put together, the better the algorithms," explains Thomas. "Better solutions are offered than simply diverting traffic." Together with the University of Stuttgart, he wants to test in the future.

Traffic will be no less

The Fraunhofer Institute for Labor and Organization in Stuttgart, together with the mobile phone company Telefonica, has investigated whether mobile data is suitable for traffic planning. "Via mobile data, theoretically all transport modes can be represented - including public transport and footpaths," explains Tobias Männel from the Fraunhofer IAO. This is valuable in the planning of offers with different means of transport - and to answer the question of which forms of transport can be replaced.
But does this also help to improve the air quality in problems such as the Stuttgart Neckartor? "With the aid of real-time data it is possible to react to disturbances," says Peter Vortisch of the Karlsruhe Institute of Technology (KIT). "This is the biggest lever." The data base is now better, infrastructure such as the traffic light controls can be adapted. "The traffic volume will not be less," warnisch warns. And it would not necessarily reduce pollutants. A green wave only reduces pollutants if it does not lead to more people driving. "Liquid traffic is always better than jammed."

Delivery service as an alternative?

The reason is simple: a steady traffic generates less turbulence of fine dust, explains traffic planner Thomas. "Nitrogen oxide emissions are also reduced if there is not enough gas." In Stuttgart nearly 70 green waves have now been introduced. However, green waves only functioned with a capacity utilization of 80 to 90 percent. There is also the risk of "induced traffic". "We see this effect, for example, in the case of bypass roads," explains Thomas. "As soon as there is an advantage in the travel time, it will be more attractive to travel by car."
Tobias Männel of the Fraunhofer IAO nevertheless sees a possibility of taking advantage of the data. Almost a third of all routes are made up of purchases. "It would, for example, be conceivable that deliveries could also be booked as an additional service in a public transport app," says Männel. "Instead of 100 buyers with their own car would be a delivery van on the road and the 100 people could take the public transport, since they need nothing more transport themselves." However, the implementation of such ideas is likely to take some time until they are implemented. The air at the Neckar Gate will remain dirty for a while.