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New app makes life easier for professional drivers with crowdsourced data

Published on 30.7.2021

When you’re on a summer trip, have you ever played that game where you count how many trucks you see on the road? Trucks, articulated vehicles and a variety of other transports are a familiar sight around the clock, as up to 63 per cent of Finland’s goods traffic is transported by road. In addition to being an important part of the global economy, road freight has an impact on traffic flow and safety as a whole.

In Finland, 40 per cent of logistics companies are single-vehicle enterprises that previously had to search for route planning information, including rest stops and real-time situational pictures, from a variety of sources. Tietorahdin kartta is a new map app that makes life easier for professional drivers, transport companies and transport coordinators. The app collates information that is essential for a smooth journey into a single map with the aid of crowdsourced data collection and sharing.

The app utilises Fintraffic’s open data service, Digitraffic.

“Fintraffic’s operations are based on having an uninterrupted, real-time situational picture of traffic at our disposal. When it comes to developing a data ecosystem for road traffic, we want to be the ‘quarterback’ of the team. The Tietorahdin kartta map app is an excellent example of how the road traffic ecosystem can be developed via data utilisation and digital services,” says Mika Ahvenainen, Development Manager at Fintraffic.

Conflicts between data and reality have posed challenges in route planning

In order to choose the best route for a smooth and safe journey, professional drivers and transport coordinators must have access to sufficiently up-to-date and detailed information about any issues along their route. These include things such as height and weight restrictions, service stations, and any road signs directed at professional drivers.

“In my work as a transport consultant, I noticed both substantial shortcomings in the data that was available and inconsistencies between different sources. There was also a lot of outdated information around. This made route planning more difficult, and also posed a safety risk,” says Tietorahti Oy’s founder, Janne Lausvaara.

Although there have been paid navigators on the market, no one has been offering a collation of reliable, real-time data for free. Data-related problems have been directly reflected in practical challenges: a well-planned route may end up proving impossible if reality does not match the data.

“Whatever the data says, drivers always have to follow the instructions and restrictions they encounter along the way. There are no free mobile maps on the market, even though a driver’s phone is their number-one navigation tool on the road,” says Lausvaara.

To solve this problem, Lausvaara began developing an app for professional drivers that now utilises Digitraffic’s data on disruptions in traffic. At the same time, Tietorahti changed its business focus from digitising transport sector processes to collecting and updating data relating to the industry. The aim is to provide professional drivers with up-to-date information about the essential aspects of their journey. The app also functions as a navigator.

Data collection is now crowdsourced and shared

The development of the new app began with updating information about bridge clearances. This was considered particularly important for professional drivers working with heavy vehicles and maintenance. A crowdsourced model was chosen for data collection, in which the drivers themselves actively collected data throughout the road roadwork.  The app marked all the underpasses whose height needed clarification, and this enabled drivers to make reports from the actual locations.

In spring 2020, Tietorahti Oy launched Tietorahdin kartta – a free mobile app that had been developed on the basis of the first version released in 2018. Development continues with the collection of information that is essential for professional drivers through crowdsourcing and data sharing. In addition to providing real-time data, the app will also make it easier to search for information, as all of the relevant data can be found in a single map, rather than spread out over a number of sources.

“The app offers a completely new way of collecting data directly from users. For example, we’re currently gathering data about trailer parking locations. We can easily add new types of data for collection, and they will immediately be visible to users without the need to update the app,” says Lausvaara.

It’s also quick and easy for drivers to add or correct information with just a few clicks. When using the mobile app, drivers must be physically at the location itself. However, they can also make corrections later using the desktop version.

Drivers can customise their map view

The Tietorahdin kartta map app is completely free for drivers, and is already being used by more than 7,500 professional drivers. You can choose from different map views – by vehicle type, cargo type or transport method – but the view can also be completely customised to your own needs. The drivers of, for example, a van and a 34-metre articulated vehicle will have very different needs.

“For example, if a driver has a payment card for a particular chain of service stations, they can choose to display only these service stations on their map.  The app is being developed specifically for drivers and transport coordinators, to make their everyday lives that little bit easier,” says Lausvaara.

By using different layers of the map, you can see information about things such as disruptions in traffic, roadworks, maximum permissible heights and weights, maximum weight per axle and tandem axle, places where you can take a shower or have a sauna, rest areas, parking areas, service stations, loading zones in city centres, and other services commonly used by drivers.  The app will also remember your previous choices, so you don’t have to recreate your view every time.

Four new interfaces in the pipeline

In addition to drivers, the system also helps municipalities that are finding it challenging to manage and utilise growing data volumes. Up-to-date data makes it easier to access information and eliminates the potential for human error. Tietorahti is currently developing four new interfaces for Digitraffic data.

“In addition to the information about disruptions in traffic that is currently available, we will be adding more data about things such as special transports and variable weight restrictions. Our cooperation with Fintraffic has gone well. I firmly believe that together we are more, and that will help us go further in our goals,” says Lausvaara.

Drivers and other stakeholders in the sector are actively involved in collecting data for the app and sharing it with other operators, as cooperation benefits the industry as a whole. In the future, Lausvaara hopes that international cooperation will grow up around the app, so that thoughts and ideas can be exchanged between logistics operators in different countries.

“Although feedback on the app has mostly been positive, we’re hoping for more feedback that will enable us to develop it to provide even better service. Our goal is to be the largest data platform in the sector – one that brings together all of the information that interests professional drivers,” says Lausvaara.

The Tietorahdin kartta map app in figures:

– Over the past year, the map layer Maximum permissible height has been viewed more than 2 million times and that figure is increasing

– More than 7,800 users (20 July 2021)

– It takes users only two seconds to report errors or new information. 

– More than 600 items of feedback or other notifications from users per month

The benefits of the app in a nutshell:

1. Crowdsourcing is used to knock public open data into shape, thereby improving traffic safety

2. Crowdsourcing is also being used to collect new data sources and tacit knowledge from the transport sector

3. Professional drivers always have access to the most reliable and up-to-date information

A free map app for transport companies, for both iOS and Android devices: