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The town of Põlva gets Estonia’s smartest road

Põlva, a lovely town in Southern Estonia, got the smartest road in Estonia, integrating various intelligent transportation system units to shape driving habits. The smart road was built by Estonian Smart City startup Bercman Technologies.

The town of Põlva, located in southeastern Estonia, is known for its beautiful landscapes and rich cultural heritage. With a population of 13,500 residents, it also blends tradition with modernity. Põlva Municipal Government, in collaboration with Bercman Technologies, has successfully completed the construction of an innovative smart road.

Started in 2022, the smart road section spans over 2.5 km long and takes pedestrian safety in Põlva to the new level. To start with, Estonia is already one of the safest countries when it comes to traffic accidents. Yet, there are countless smart cities initiatives across the country to move things even further. The construction of Põlva’s smart road was completed in late 2023 and features Bercman’s proprietary Smart Pedestrian Crosswalk safety system across 14 unregulated pedestrian crossings. These crossings are equipped with vehicle number recognition cameras for measuring average speed, creating a comprehensive urban speed management solution.

Martti Rõigas, the Mayor of Põlva, expressed his satisfaction with the project’s outcome. “The innovation tender was initiated primarily with the objective of ensuring that every resident of Põlva feels safe while moving on the streets,” he stated. The project, partly funded by the European Regional Development Fund, cost €167K euros, with 50% coming from an Enterprise Estonia (EAS) grant.

Mart Suurkask, CEO of Bercman Technologies, highlighted the uniqueness of the Põlva smart road. “The small town of Põlva has taken a leading role in traffic safety innovation, and the solution we have developed is, to our knowledge, not in use anywhere else in the world,” he said. “Põlva is an excellent location for the smart road solution.”

Data-driven safety

On its first day, the smart road identified a vehicle speeding through Põlva at 80 km/h. All of this is done elegantly. To measure average speed, the smart road is equipped with 10 number recognition cameras in both directions, distributed at five measuring points. Over the 2.5 km stretch, the time taken to traverse the section is calculated using data from the cameras at both ends. This information is then displayed to the driver, indicating whether the speed was within the legal limit or exceeded.

The system not only measures average speed but also collects anonymized data on traffic density and environmental indicators like air quality. “The anonymized data will inform smarter, data-driven decision-making in urban planning,” emphasized Rõigas.

Suurkask added that the pedestrian crosswalks, apart from detecting pedestrians and alerting drivers, also hold potential for future integration with V2X communication technologies. This stands for communication between a vehicle and other entities which may affect it.

Estonia, home to many smart city solutions, is a perfect testbed for further innovations in traffic safety and urban planning. Besides numerous efforts to increase road safety, the country’s innovation sector also works on the world-first charging track for electric vehicles (EVs), an extensive network of traditional electric chargers, and driverless vehicles for logistics.

Read more about the opportunities Estonia offers in the field of smart cities here and feel free to send us an e-Consulting request.

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