The 28th Italian National PIARC Conference organized by PIARC Italy last May in Rome, which preceded by a few months the PIARC 2019 26th World Road Congress in Abu Dhabi, was dedicated to the theme “The Roads of the Future”. The World Road Association, the oldest and authoritative international association in the road sector, which governments around the world founded in Paris over a century ago, is the ideal place to develop a vision for the future of roads, awaiting the future of digital destiny.
Experts from all over the world who discuss the techniques on how to: make a bridge safer, how to monitor a viaduct, how to avoid accidents in tunnels and to equip a smart road, have the privilege of choosing the best solutions, enriching their country and bringing new knowledge to other countries. This applies to both rail and road transport, which are increasingly interconnected with a view to mobility as a service.
And so: how will the roads of the future be like? At the PIARC Italian National Conference a clear answer came out: the roads of the future will be safe, monitored, connected and sustainable. This is what emerged from the four-year work of the experts involved in the Italian Technical Committees of PIARC Italy, who had the privilege of sharing technical knowledge on the roads with their colleagues from all over the world.
During the conference technical issues were discussed, which are also at the center of the present political debate such as: scheduled maintenance in the management of the life cycle of road works, the digitization of roads and cybersecurity, cost benefit analysis, the new frontiers of design, the theme of responsibility and safety in automated driving.
The PIARC Italian Conference focused on all these main themes. The first topic addressed by the experts was the scheduled maintenance of the works, which had been neglected for too long in our Country. The conviction is that investing in maintenance means investing in safety, saving money and, above all, saving human lives.
Among the main topics was the theme of the digitization of roads, also in view of autonomous driving. The Ministry of Infrastructure and Transport has recently authorized the first experimentation on public roads in the cities of Turin and Parma, with a particular focus on safety.
Smart roads, connected roads, safe roads and roads that represent the ideal environment for autonomous driving have also been placed at the top of the list. In this context, ANAS's commitment to gradually digitize its main national roads is also evident.
New works are among the priorities since these are works that serve all users, and not only for the purpose of enriching a few players involved. Works of public interest, not of private interest. In this respect, the focus has been on the cost-benefit analysis, centered on infrastructure whose economic, social and environmental costs are lower than the benefits not only in economic terms but also in terms of overall quality of life.
The path that the Country should follow on infrastructure and that also emerged from the Italian PIARC conference responds to a clear and global vision of development: incentivate a clean and soft mobility which includes the revival of the small widespread works that the Country so badly needs. A great plan for ordinary and extraordinary maintenance for mobility; the revival of the large useful infrastructure that must bring the country closer internally and closer to Europe.
And to speed up the process of good works it is necessary to build a renewed and simplified regulatory framework, which eliminates regulatory hypertrophy while fully guaranteeing legality. It is necessary to drastically reduce the number of contracting stations, concentrating in them the maximum technical and legal competence and all legality controls.
A simple state road, which cuts a region in two, is able to literally change its economy: to halve the time taken to transport goods and people, to quadruple the value of adjacent agricultural and non-agricultural land, to create service stations, shopping centres, shops, restaurants and hundreds of businesses on the sides of the roads. Investing in useful roads means, today more than ever, investing in the future of our Country.