The near future will yield precise forecasts about traffic and we will drive on roads made of recycled asphalt

YIT Corporation News, January 16, 2019, at 07:00 a.m. 

Remix YIT
Remix YIT

The new Future of Roads vision of YIT explores these and a number of other future prospects.

In the near future, there will be various interesting changes in traffic and road infrastructure. Artificial intelligence will help predict not only traffic jams and changes in weather conditions but also the deterioration and the renovation need of roads. New materials and their processing methods will expand the service life of roads while decreasing the environmental impact of road infrastructure.

A little further in the future, we will see robots using the roads and drones delivering goods between cities.

The new Future of Roads vision of YIT explores these and a number of other future prospects.

“We started working on the future vision last May. The goal of the vision was to seek and identify various scenarios about the direction of the future of traffic. The future vision is a summary of the research and analyses of the industry,” says Vesa Pirinen, Chief Strategy Officer of the paving segment at YIT.

The future vision illustrated how road use will change, what type of a role road users will play and what sort of challenges and opportunities there will be in road construction and maintenance.

“In the future vision, we focus on changes taking place within the next 5–10 years,” says Pirinen.

Digitalisation to revolutionise the prediction of traffic and weather conditions

The introduction of digitalisation or robotisation to everyday vehicles and transport has been a subject of extensive discussion over the past few years. Self-driving cars and robot trucks driven in a queue by one sole human driver have been some of the innovations that have received a great deal of attention. As the range of private-owned vehicles on the roads renews itself quite slowly, these technological impacts will not be truly visible until about 20 years from now.

Of course, significant leaps in the digitalisation of traffic will occur much sooner. In the next 5–10 years, navigation and the prediction of weather conditions on the roads will benefit from artificial intelligence.

Already, today’s navigators and Google Maps are able to give real-time information on the traffic situation. However, it would be more beneficial in terms of traffic flow to know what the traffic will look like in the next 30 minutes or one hour, for example.

“The predictability of traffic benefits both consumers and enterprises. It can be used to prevent stoppages in production,” says Pirinen.

In addition to congestion, challenging weather conditions cause problems and dangerous situations in traffic. Artificial intelligence can be used to predict changes, such as freezing of the road’s surface or physical deterioration of the road.

“At YIT, we are already developing ‘weather AI’ on top of Microsoft’s machine intelligence to produce information about weather conditions and changes on the road’s surface.”

At its best, the actions of the weather AI can be timed extremely precisely in real time, offering the end user better conditions for transport. The system can predict slippery conditions, for example, in a completely new way, learning from previous actions and their results. 

Recycling of asphalt yields considerable environmental benefits

From a sustainability point of view, particular changes will be seen in the heating and recycling of asphalt. At the moment, asphalt is usually heated to 160 degrees before application. According to Pirinen, YIT is currently examining how to use 120-degree asphalt more extensively.

“The less you heat the asphalt, the less energy is consumed and the fewer carbon dioxide emissions are created. However, there are some issues related to low-temperature asphalt that need to be solved. For example, it is more difficult to process due to its rigidity.”

According to Pirinen, the largest environmental impacts in paving will be achieved by increasing the recycling rate of asphalt. In the current remix method, the surface layer of the old asphalt is ground off and mixed with new asphalt mass and bitumen. But what if there was no need to add new asphalt in the mix at all?

“One of today’s challenges is that asphalt required for recycled asphalt is not available in sufficient amounts around the country or it is of poor quality,” says Pirinen.

Solutions expected for financing challenges in the next government term

The future vision also highlights some challenges, the largest of which are financing and its predictability. If financing cannot be increased with new solutions, such as road tolls, the targeting of funds must be considered even more carefully: which roads can be repaired, what is the service level of the route network and what are the innovations that can be developed?

In Finland, predictability is hindered by the fact that the funding of projects is decided per each government term and budget period. It is difficult to make major long-term investments if the future is uncertain. In Sweden and Norway, the governments establish long-term infrastructure investment programmes that may span a decade, for instance.

“An investment programme spanning across government terms has been planned in Finland for a long time. I am optimistic about setting up such a programme during the next government term and adding it to the enterprise-model project funding pilot,” says Jarkko Salmenoja, Vice President, YIT Finland Ltd.

“Road tolls would be the easiest way to fund the road enterprise, but we are behind in the establishment of such tolls.  Spain, Italy, France and Germany, for example, widely use toll systems,” says Salmenoja.

We expect to see these changes in the near future:

1. Traffic increases on main roads but decreases on smaller roads. The population concentrates in growth centres and traffic between such centres increases. Inside growth centres, drones take responsibility for some of the traffic.

2. Intelligence increases in traffic. Real-time analytics improve the flow, safety and predictability of traffic while reducing the costs of traffic and traffic-related operations.

3. New financing models are needed. Private funding and road tolls fulfil the acute need for financing. The government needs to set up long-term investment programmes and construction companies must provide higher cost-efficiency.

4. Sustainable development is increasingly promoted in paving. Low-temperature asphalt decreases energy consumption and emissions. Asphalt can be 100% recycled and the roads can be made more sustainable. Replacing bitumen in asphalt is a long-term goal.

Further reading:

Infrastructure construction:

For further information, please contact:
Vesa Pirinen, Chief Strategy Officer, YIT Corporation, tel. +358 (0)40 532 2211, 
Pauliina Pykälä, Communications Manager, YIT Corporation, tel. +358 (0)40 354 3360,

YIT is the largest Finnish and significant North European construction company. We develop and build apartments, business premises and entire areas. We are also specialised in demanding infrastructure construction and paving. Together with our customers our 10,000 professionals are creating more functional, more attractive and more sustainable cities and environments. We work in 11 countries: Finland, Russia, Scandinavia, the Baltic States, the Czech Republic, Slovakia and Poland. The new YIT was born when over 100-year-old YIT Corporation and Lemminkäinen Corporation merged on February 1, 2018. Our pro forma revenue for 2017 was over EUR 3.8 billion. YIT Corporation's share is listed on Nasdaq Helsinki Oy.