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Saturday , 20 July 2024

From glass beads to 25,000 variations of traffic lights

The Austria-based traffic technology group SWARCO prides itself on providing safe and smart travel for all. “Innovations and sustainability are the backbones of our company,” says CEO Michael Schuch in a conversation with Mangala Chandran at Intertraffic Amsterdam 2024. Schuch reflects on over 25 years with SWARCO, tracing its evolution from provider of   glass beads to  leading global mobility solutions. Swarco’s GoGreen Virtual Reality experience at Intertraffic demonstrated how its technology solutions could help reduce emissions.

Founded in 1969, Swarco’s  first product was glass beads recycled from flat glass cullet- waste or broken window glass.

“Actually, it is more than recycling, we’ve mastered the art of upcycling discarded products to something significantly better, so to say. I do not know if the founder Manfred Swarovski had this master plan in mind already back then. But all those bits and pieces that we have in our portfolio today are really connected with each other,” says Michael. Today, Swarco is about safety, mobility and about people. Its leading idea is to improve the quality of life by making the travel experience safer, quicker, more convenient, and environmentally sound.

Growth and Innovations

Swarco has manufacturing sites across Europe, the US and other parts of the world. From glass beads, the company expanded into road marking materials, machinery and services. With its system competence, it is now the  leader when it comes to high performance reflective road markings.

Swarco’s second focus is intelligent transport systems (ITS). It transitioned early on to LED technology for traffic lights, reducing power consumption and maintenance. “Today, we offer about 25,000 variations of traffic lights customized for different countries and clients.”  The Company has become one of the largest manufacturers of traffic lights with productions in Europe and Mexico and has established a very strong B2B channel in the world market, including India. Besides traffic lights, Swarco provides traffic light controllers for intersections and software for urban mobility solutions. Parking being crucial in urban ITS. Solutions like  parking guidance systems are offered  in cities in order to reduce search time for vacant parking spaces on-street and off street which consequently leads to a reduction in traffic volumes in cities.

Interurban Mobility: MyHighway & MyTunnel, MyCity…

Another market sector in ITS covers – highways, motorways and tunnels.  For the highway network, Swarco prides itself to provide the most energy efficient and highly durable LED variable message signs .  Being a safety critical element, the signs need to be sharp and readable under different weather conditions.  The offerings include controllers to drive the signs on a stretch and the detector technology, with the software platform to operate a highway network and tunnels in the most efficient and safest way.

“We have a software suite of products; in the urban area we call it MyCity, our urban mobility management platform. MyHighway is the management platform for the highway network where one wants to monitor and analyze the traffic situation, communicate variable speeds, implement weigh-in-motion solutions, classify vehicles, manage lane control and many more,” explains Michael.

On many highways, one also has tunnels incorporating different technologies for safety, emergency exits, lighting, ventilation systems, detection and signage. But the initiative here is not to have the two elements – a highway and a tunnel – to be completely separate.

“We do not want to have city traffic being dealt with independently of a nearby highway system. A city needs to know what traffic can be expected coming from the highway in order to coordinate traffic in the most efficient and safe way”, adds Michael.

Integrating CCAM

 Cooperative, Connected, and Automated Mobility as we know today was also called C-ITS, Cooperative ITS, before transitioning into CCAM. Starting from level 1, the car becomes fully self-driving only at level 5.  The optimal operation of a fully automated vehicle depends not only on the technical development of the vehicle itself, but also on the  connectivity between infrastructure and vehicles. Data needs to be shared between vehicles and infrastructure to ensure a seamless travel experience.

 “One of the core elements that keeps semi-automated cars or cars with an ADAS system on the roads are road markings. So, the purpose of road markings have been evolving from the need to being well seen by the eyes of the driver, to now the cars themselves with cameras and LiDAR also need to be able to read the road markings.”

In terms of technology, Swarco has been doing pilot projects in Europe analyzing infrastructure to vehicle communication data for more efficient traffic management and has the ambition to expand CCAM services to large scale deployment.

Global Vision

For Swarco, continuous innovation is the  key. “We need to ensure our offerings address customer pain points efficiently. Global trends like sustainability, digitalization, and AI are transforming mobility. Our AI-based traffic management for instance, optimizes traffic flow using machine learning.  Climate change and environmental degradation are critical issues, and tackling our mobility challenges has obviously a huge impact, “ adds Michael.

Encouraging start-ups

It is the second  time that Swarco is supporting ITSUP area at Intertraffic.  ““Innovation not always comes from within, but often from outside our company. Therefore we support startups by providing challenges in the mobility field and offering real-world proof-of-concept demonstrations. This helps integrate innovative ideas into our portfolio and ensures that we do not miss out on technological trends and remain a leader in this industry.”

India’s enormous transformation

India’s rapid development is impressive, especially with over 30 kilometers of highways built daily. “We are active in several areas through our long standing and trusted partners Trafitek and Kataline providing high-performance glass beads, traffic lights, intersection control, variable message signs and software solutions. Currently we’re exploring the possibilities for local production to support India’s ambitious plans.”

Swarco  will  also  be looking at India’s Smart City and highway projects  to demonstrate its portfolio  on a bigger scale.

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