The Authority for Transport, Infrastructure and Mobility of the City of Turin and Fiat Chrysler Automobiles (FCA) have entered into a cooperation agreement to control the access rights of electric vehicles to the restricted traffic areas (Zona a Traffico Limitato, ZTL) in the inner city of the northern Italian metropolis.
Partners in the “Turin Geofencing Lab” project are 5T, a city-owned company that manages the ZTL access authorizations, Centro Ricerche Fiat, the brand’s development center for drive trains, vehicle systems, materials and innovative processes to improve the competitiveness of vehicle models, as well as GTT, the Operator of public transport companies in Turin.
The Turin Geofencing Lab was created to take advantage of the opportunities that arise from the technological change in the capital of Piedmont. As in other so-called “smart cities”, the infrastructure and means of transport will communicate with each other in the future. At the same time, ever larger areas are identified in which the environmental impact must be reduced. In this complex, electric vehicles in general and currently, above all, vehicles with plug-in hybrid technology play an important role. With the combination of a combustion engine and an electric motor, they are seen as key elements for the transition to a new urban mobility.
In cooperation between FCA e-Mobility, the department of the electro-mobility company, and Centro Ricerche Fiat, a system was created that is still in the prototype stage with fully integrated on-board sensors that detect traffic-calmed zones. The on-board electronics of a hybrid vehicle automatically switch off the internal combustion engine and activate the electric drive when entering a ZTL area. The pilot project, which is unique in the world, is testing, among other things, the technology of so-called geofencing, i.e. the control of access authorizations with the help of electronic location determination. The test also tested the communication methods of the vehicles with the infrastructure of the municipality of Turin and the platforms operated by 5T for managing the ZTL.
The “Turin Geofencing Lab” integrates electromobility into the management of city traffic. It enables plug-in hybrid vehicles – such as the Jeep Renegade 4xe – to automatically enter the traffic-calmed zone in the center of Turin in electric mode. This interaction between vehicles and the urban traffic management platform makes the Turin Geofencing Lab project unique in the world.
In practice, the “Turin Geofencing Lab” is easy to use. The telematics system on board the vehicle shows a message on a corresponding display and draws the driver’s attention to the fact that he is entering a traffic-calmed zone. The electronics check whether the electric, emission-free drive mode is ready and activate it automatically. Normally, the system does not automatically switch back to the vehicle mode that was activated before entering the ZTL. However, if the driving mode is changed to a non-electrical level within a ZTL, the system triggers a warning and recommends switching back to electrical mode. If the driver ignores this recommendation,
Communication between the test vehicle Jeep Renegade 4xe – which can switch between electric and petrol operation – and the traffic infrastructure takes place via the geofencing system. A car with hybrid technology automatically benefits from the same advantages as a purely electric vehicle. The Turin Geofencing Lab project supports the commitment of local institutions to act in the interest of the environment and the awareness of vehicle owners to help improve the air quality in the city center.
After the end of the pilot phase, in which a Jeep Renegade 4xe with geofencing technology had already covered several hundred kilometers, the next stage of the project was heralded. FCA is delivering two Jeep Renegade 4xe vehicles to the city of Turin, the first in the world to communicate with cars driving through their streets in electric mode.
Working with 5T also enables the technology’s practicality to be checked and automatic ZTL access detection systems to be further developed. As soon as the geofencing strategy has proven itself in plug-in hybrid vehicles such as the Jeep Renegade 4xe, appropriate guidelines can be implemented. In this way, vehicles with plug-in hybrid technology can be granted the same rights as purely electrically powered cars.
“By signing this agreement, the City of Turin is continuing its commitment as an urban laboratory to develop innovative technologies and test their use,” said Mayor Chiara Appendino. “This can benefit environmental protection and the development of sustainable mobility, making our city a better place to live. Public-private partnerships are not only useful for the introduction of new intelligent services and technologies that can be applied on a large scale. They also represent a significant boost for a city like Turin, which has unique know-how, the world’s leading automotive industry and excellent research facilities.”
Roberto Di Stefano, Head of EMEA e-Mobility at FCA, said: “The Turin Geofencing Lab project represents a great collaboration between the city of Turin, which has to set strict environmental protection rules, and a company like FCA, which must find innovative, affordable solutions for drivers to help improve air quality in our cities. Once this unique pilot project with the city of Turin is completed, we will offer the same technology to other local governments in Italy and abroad.”