Getting there safer, sooner and greener

There are two major challenges posed by our existing transportation systems: safety and environmental impact. The transportation sector alone is responsible for 25 per cent of the entire country’s greenhouse gas emissions; and collisions claimed the lives of more than 350 people in Alberta alone in 2013. More must be done to improve our ability to safely and efficiently move people and goods.

GHG emissions can be reduced by improving vehicle efficiency and introducing alternate modes of travel, but changes to our transportation system are also needed to address traffic congestion and safety while reflecting the reality of limited infrastructure budgets.  Optimized, innovative transportation management has the potential to support a growing economy and high quality of life, getting people and goods to their destinations more efficiently using existing infrastructure.  Intelligent transportation systems are being designed and tested to achieve these goals using advanced technologies (like sensors, control mechanisms, communications equipment and computers) that reveal how drivers, vehicles and infrastructure interact in real time.

Since most energy resources are located away from major metropolitan areas, it is also important to develop efficient systems for the transportation of energy resources and personnel. The roadway and rail systems in these remote regions present different challenges such as complicated soil conditions, hostile construction environments, and shortage of construction resources.  Optimizing systems for durability, safety, reduced environmental impact and efficiency will have long-term impacts on the energy industry.

Researchers in the University of Alberta Faculty of Engineering are working to improve Canada’s transportation system and reduce the impact of transportation on the environment, through implementation of intelligent transportation systems, improved road construction methods and better materials.  Some of the current effort includes:

  • Transportation engineering professor Tony Qiu leads Canada’s first investigation into the use of connected vehicle technology to save lives, warn drivers about hazardous conditions or tie-ups and offer alternate routes. The ACTIVE-AURORA Test Bed Network, a partnership between the University of Alberta (U of A), the University of British Columbia, three levels of government (Transport Canada, Alberta Transportation, and the City of Edmonton), and industry is Canada’s first connected vehicle testing project.  Test beds are being run in real-time on freeways in Edmonton (ACTIVE) and Vancouver (AURORA) in partnership with universities, industry and government.
  • Led by Alireza Bayat, the research team and industrial partners in the Integrated Road Research Facility (IRRF) are pioneering the use of recycled and waste materials in roadway projects and seeking to understand and mitigate the impact of cold climates and the spring thaw on pavement surfaces to make roadways more durable and sustainable. 
  • The $8M Canadian Rail Research Laboratory (CaRRL), sponsored by CN Rail, CP Rail and the Association of American Railroads, is developing advanced materials, comprehensive sensor and monitoring networks and risk-management strategies to ensure that energy resources moved by rail are transported to global markets as safely and efficiently as possible.