Written by: Mimi Palm
It was 3:30 p.m. on Wednesday afternoon, and our bus arrived at our final stop of the day, the headquarters of Brisa Auto-Estradas de Portugal (Brisa Portugal Highways). Two tall men in navy suits were standing outside ready to greet us as we approached the building. We were welcomed by Eduardo Costa Ramos, Head of Business Development, and Frederico Lobao Melo, Deputy Head of Brisa Business Development. They walked us into what seemed like a mini auditorium with stadium seating and a projection screen in front of a black-curtained wall. The presentation started almost immediately, beginning with the company profile.
Brisa played a key role in bringing Portugal’s once neglected transportation infrastructure up to date. The company holds the largest road concession granted by the Portuguese government, and it operates the country’s main network of tolled motorways.
Brisa Auto-Estradas de Portugal is a mobility company; however, the business model of Brisa is a combination of partnerships with other companies, including Via Verde, Colibri, and A-to-be Company. The largest segment of the company is highway management, overseeing six concessions, road services, and vehicle inspections. They operate in the United States, India, and Holland in addition to Portugal. Their focus now and in the future is on their customers and efficiency. Eduardo stressed the importance of continuous talent development and the workforce challenges transportation and the mobility industry face. The IT segment is in need of programmers, developers, and technology orientated individuals. Talented IT professionals tend to go to Silicon Valley and/or other industries, and it has become a challenge to attract talent to the automotive industry.
According to Eduardo, Brisa is using predictive analytics via A-to-be tech business, and leveraging their artificial intelligence tools to improve and safeguard road safety. In addition, their angle for future deployments is “Smart Cities”. They want to continue their transportation model in which they integrate buses, trains, and highways, but it’s imperative that both auto manufacturers and mobility companies collaborate. Consequently, smart transport infrastructure and smart transport are key components of the “Smart City”, and more knowledge is needed concerning those issues.
After their PowerPoint presentation, Eduardo asked that we put away our phones for a behind-the-scenes look. The projection screen rose up and the black curtains began to slowly open. A command center was revealed with multiple TV screens where their highway operations team was actively monitoring and identifying any accessibility issues or accidents. They relayed as much of this information as possible to the people of Portugal for commuting purposes. Fredrico stepped in to speak on the operations, given that this was his wheelhouse. According to Fredrico, there are 70 vans on continuous routes monitoring the highways specifically in their blind spots from the cameras. There was one representative, known as the ‘voice of command’, a police officer who had the authority to divert traffic and make the decision to close highways. It was so interesting to see this command center and learn how they will continue to push sustainable mobility in their market areas. Eduardo made a great point during his presentation in that cars will continue to exist, whether or not they are called something else in the future, but this form of transportation will continue to occur and so will the need to improve the mobility canvas.