It is ironic but true: Countries in Europe, North America, the Middle East and Australia have adopted intelligent transport solutions that have been developed in Malta, a country that has only recently begun to explore new transport technologies. As intelligent traffic systems are gaining momentum around the world, Malta must address its current traffic challenges and lay the foundations for future growth, says Angelo Dalli, CEO of Q-Free Traffiko. “There are so many intelligent measures that could ease the traffic flow in Malta. We have already implemented many tools abroad, which would also allow Malta to take better advantage of its existing road infrastructure,” he says.
Around the world
The history of Q-Free Traffiko dates back to 2006, when Maltese entrepreneur and IT specialist Angelo Dalli founded Traffiko – an IT firm focused on advanced traffic applications, including secure cloud hosted web-based applications for car park management, traffic enforcement, access control, tracking, video analytics, traffic scene analysis and revenue management. In particular, Traffiko’s international business flourished and Dalli’s success did not remain unnoticed. “Two years ago, Traffiko joined forces with a Norwegian company called Q-Free ASA, which is listed on the Oslo stock exchange. Q-Free is one of the leading intelligent transport system providers in the world, present in 19 different countries. We then became Q-Free Traffiko.”
The company’s list of international contracts is long and includes the car park management in the Stockholm Globe Arena, as well as the monitoring of construction traffic at the new nuclear power station Hinkley Point, one of the UK’s largest construction projects. In Malta, Traffiko designed and delivered the Controlled Vehicular Access (CVA) system to Valletta in 2007, while more recently Q-Free Traffiko was responsible for the introduction of Malta’s first tidal lane. Thus far, only a dozen of Q-Free’s 500 employees are based in Malta, but Dalli seeks to strengthen the company’s presence on the island.
Making parking smarter
Angelo Dalli, CEO of Q-Free Traffiko
“We have plans to create a centre of excellence on parking solutions in Malta, both for private car parks, so-called off-street parking, and for on-street parking,” says Dalli. Intelligent systems for on-street parking could direct drivers directly to available parking spots. “By marking parking smarter, people spend less time looking for parking spots and driving around, which often causes more congestion,” he says. “In other countries we have also implemented parking guidance systems for internal car parks, and they work very well as drivers don’t get frustrated. We do not yet have such systems in Malta.”
Malta’s small size and the fact that the island is densely populated create unique and challenging traffic situations. “A lot of congestion is related to the layout of Malta’s road network. It is not easy to address this issue, after all we cannot just tear down buildings to widen and enlarge certain roads, but we could use the available space better,” says Dalli. Going forward, Dalli believes Malta needs to introduce more flyovers and tidal lanes. “A truly intelligent system with sensors collecting data and a control centre would also make a difference. Based on real-time information and traffic volume, smart systems can change speed limits, coordinate the timing of traffic lights and even suggest alternative roads.”
Fit for the future
“We have seen recent investments in Malta, but there was a long period where nothing had been done in terms of implementing intelligent transport systems. Malta needs to catch up fast, especially if we want to move towards taller buildings and high-rise developments.” In addition to intelligent traffic management systems, in the longer term, Malta should also consider other modes of transport, says Dalli. “Monorails are probably too expensive to build, but a light rail or trolleybus route could be an alternative for Malta. It has to be financially viable though, and such projects usually only make sense once the population reaches the one million mark.” However, Dalli believes that Malta will soon be at a tipping point. “If we want to grow to the next level, see our economy expand and attract more people to Malta, we need to invest in infrastructure.”