Can a tunnel be intelligent?

09/06/2017 (Mexico)
Can a tunnel be intelligent?

It may sound strange for a tunnel or road to be intelligent... but they actually can.

Jon Escolar, head of business development in the area of Intelligent Transport Systems (ITS) of the engineering and technology firm SENER in Mexico and Latin America, explains that the use of Intelligent Transport Systems (ITS) is becoming increasingly common, enabling improved mobility for both people and goods, by incorporating surveillance elements, accident support and improvements in toll payment systems.

Five interesting things about tunnels:

  • What do we mean by tunnel? A covered-in construction from which there is no possibility of exit or intersection through its structure, since it is restricted to the two points it joins. The main aim of a tunnel is to connect up two points.
  • What are the risks in a tunnel? There can be several risks: upon entry into tunnels, drivers go from an area with a lot of light to a space with much lower lighting and in the case of very long tunnels, visibility can be diminished. In the event of an accident, such as a car stopping or a truck spilling part of its load, the other drivers are put at risk.
  • What is the function of Intelligent Transport Systems in tunnels? Tunnels need to be equipped with ventilation systems, power supplies, lighting, fire protection systems; and also security processes involving both surveillance systems and traffic management. The connectivity of these systems guarantees the security of the infrastructure - and more importantly- of the users.
  • What is the purpose of ITS? They guarantee an adequate flow of traffic and alert against possible risks by establishing an infrastructure that guarantees information, such as fibre optics or telephone systems, providing the necessary support in the event of an emergency, which can range from road accidents to spillages, gas build-ups or fires.
  • Are all tunnels equipped with ITS? When a tunnel is over 400 metres in length, it is recommended, for security, that ventilation systems be put in place and a loudspeaker system for announcements in the event of an accident, as well as non-stop lighting.
  • What is the future of ITS in these structures? There is a trend towards improved interconnectivity between vehicles and infrastructures in order to minimise risks. Also towards generating quality information that can range from having improved navigation tools on roads to optimising resources. Uniting security, management and information systems for users makes any trip more comfortable and reliable. 
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