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Southern Africa bets on emerging tech to lift transport sector

By , ITWeb
Africa , 12 Jul 2023
South Africa's minister of transport Sindisiwe Chikunga opened the conference.
South Africa's minister of transport Sindisiwe Chikunga opened the conference.

The use of digital technologies in transportation came under scrutiny yesterday at the on-going Southern African Transport Conference, in South Africa, as academics and business discussed smart solutions for the sector.

Participants heard how emerging technologies are being deployed across the transport industry to improve the efficiencies in turn transforming the sector.

The three day conference’s theme this year is ‘Rethinking transportation: planning and building resilient systems to meet global externalities’.

Yesterday, in Pretoria, digital twin technology in transport came into focus, as experts demonstrated how it can support the industry in making it smarter and efficient.

Digital twinning uses real-world data to create simulations that can predict how a product or process will perform.

CEO of French firm Oris Nicholas Miravalls and his project manager Hugo Pley-LeClerq presented a paper evaluating the use of digital twins in infrastructure projects through a real case study.

The conference heard: “By creating a digital twin, the project team was able to identify alternative designs with a lower carbon footprint and at a lower cost. It also allowed the project team to assess the project’s safety and resilience and evaluate possible countermeasure.”

Further, researchers from the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) led by Lana Kemp presented their findings on how technology solutions can be used for bridge inspections in South Africa.

The CSIR team delivered a paper analysing opportunities for drone assessments in the bridge-inspections.

Currently, inspections for strategic bridges require an under-bridge inspection unit (UBIU), a heavy piece of machinery mounted on a large truck.

According to the researchers, strategic bridges are often difficult to access due to the height and size of the structures, or because they are located over rivers.

To this end, the CSIR team identified cost and time benefits for bridge inspections to be conducted using drones.

“The new methodology could replace the use of an UBIU and capture images with a UAV, reducing the cost of strategic inspections and ensure the safety of bridge inspectors,” Kemp said.

In addition, participants also heard how AI could be used in road safety around overloaded vehicles. North West University academics Arno de Coning and Alwyn Hoffman presented research on how AI can assist in dealing with the challenge of overloaded vehicles on the road.

Currently, Traffic Control Centres protect the country’s road infrastructure via overload-control weighbridges along major freight corridors. However, De Coning and Hoffman said these systems lack the information to support intelligent decision-making. This means that 75% to 85% of the vehicles weighed are found to be legally loaded – an unnecessary waste of time and fuel.

The pair proposed an AI-backed overload control method that shares data between stations to allow more intelligent decisions to be made about which vehicles need to be statically weighed. 

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