Bentley Incorporated: How digital twins are reinventing the future of transportation


In this long read, Steve cockerellfrom Bentley Systems explains how digital twins are reinventing the future of transportation.

By 2050, the world’s population is expected to increase by about 2 billion people, from 7.9 billion to 9.7 billion. And, while growth rates vary widely from region to region, in the eyes of the United Nations, the future of the world’s population is most certainly urban.

Around 80% of the UK currently lives in urban areas. The combination of a growing population and increased urbanization puts enormous pressure on the infrastructure assets that support almost every aspect of life.

Our roads, railways and bridges will be the hardest hit. But, for the foreseeable future, these essential networks are the only way to keep our cities and our country moving.

Our future must be more sustainable

About 70% of global carbon dioxide emissions can be attributed to infrastructure. Every infrastructure asset, large or small, has a carbon impact during its construction – through the design, materials and construction methods we adopt, but also throughout their operational life, through the behaviors to high carbon content they support.

With figures from the International Energy Agency (IEA) showing that transport accounts for around one-fifth of all global carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions, it is road vehicles that account for three-quarters of the total number of 8 billion tonnes.

Almost half of that (45%) is you and me, as the movement of passengers, including cars, motorcycles, buses, and taxis, is the primary culprit. In contrast, rail and public transport emit very little, barely 1%.

So who is the problem? Rachel Skinner, the current President of the UK Institution of Civil Engineers, recently said: “There is no way to achieve net zero by 2050 without decarbonizing transport Significant reductions in carbon emissions must start now.

So while it requires political and economic support, as well as social change, it is the professionals who design, build and operate the world’s infrastructure that have the greatest potential to make the changes needed – to reimagine the future of infrastructures, for a better tomorrow.

Make the change part of your strategy

Something we cannot ignore is the effect of Covid-19. Rail networks and stations have turned into ghost towns, while our streets have become completely deserted during lockdown restrictions. The projects we are working on have changed, with adjustments to project schedules and, in extreme cases, complete cancellation.

But the pandemic will also change the way assets are operated in the future, requiring the adoption of new processes to ensure the restoration of passenger confidence, so that people feel safe to return to public transport, their families. offices and public places.

Despite all the negative aspects, it forced us to create new opportunities and should be used as a catalyst to improve businesses. Many now expect working from home to be part of a better work-life balance, with communication and collaboration tools like Microsoft Teams, Zoom and others becoming increasingly important to people. a lot.

The global pandemic has been a wake-up call, this change is happening and sometimes we have no power over it. The experience of the last year has shown what we can do when we are forced to change. This has been an indicator of the level of opportunity that the change offers if it is part of a strategy to achieve better business results versus a reaction to the challenges encountered.

Reinventing the new transport normal

We need to find safe and sustainable ways to overcome the challenges we face in this very complex industry.

In the short term, this means increased digitization, remote working and a greater reliance on BIM. In more advanced cases, we should look to include 4D and 5D simulation to reschedule and optimize project schedules.

It also includes revolutionizing projects by using digital twins as a way to provide real-time feedback and insight into decision-making processes.

As the case for proven digital tools to increase productivity grows even stronger, this will drive automation throughout the design and construction phases. This includes the increased use of off-site construction, where working in more easily controlled environments facilitates life safety and improved quality.

There is much we can do to help start a new wave of transportation, especially by using advanced digital technologies to support activities throughout the lifecycle of infrastructure assets.

Whether it’s making smarter decisions that help target project investments and optimize design, enabling the use of different materials or construction methods to save money and improve safety, the bottom line is that the decisions we make today really matter for a better future.

Data-driven decisions with digital twins

Thanks to digital twins, the way we design, build and operate infrastructure has evolved as well as the way the professionals involved make decisions and, in turn, possible outcomes.

Responsible for the operation, maintenance and improvement of England’s motorways, Highways England (HE) recently announced its digital, data and technology strategy in support of its more strategic business plan large. In it, HE sets out a four-year approach on how they will achieve their key goals of providing safer, smoother and more reliable journeys to their customers.

HE is already using digital twins to improve the design and test the strength of its strategic road network for the benefit of road users and operators. The state-owned company uses maps to navigate its “smart highway digital twin” to access critical asset management information, enabling better decision-making across the organization.

Contracted to perform civil works on the first phase of High Speed ​​2, and with the help of Bentley Systems, Skanska, Costain, STRABAG Joint Venture (SCS JV) works in a connected data environment to reduce time design review by 20%, saving around £ 500,000. SCS JV was also able to identify potential errors earlier in the process, saving over £ 700,000 on construction costs alone.

And, by extracting data directly from its digital twin of the project, its 5D + approach has increased the accuracy of material quantities, while measuring the CO2 cost to improve the sustainability of design and construction.

Thanks to digital twin infrastructures, the future of transport is largely being redesigned today to offer a better future for all.

Steve Cockerell is Director of Transportation Industry Marketing at Bentley Systems.

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