Q-Free: Simplifying the Transportation Equations of Smart Cities

Hakon Volldal, CEO
By 2050, two-thirds of the population—more than 6 billion people—are expected to have chosen a life in urbanized areas. For cities to be adorned with the “smart” tag and succeed with the ongoing urbanization, it is imperative that they master the art of next-generation traffic flow in increasingly complex traffic environments. This is where Norwegian-founded Q-Free, with offices in Boston, Chesapeake, Tucson and Seattle, helps improve the smart city equation. “By implementing technology that reduces commute times, emissions, and accidents, while modernizing public transportation solutions and related digital interfaces, some cities are starting to demonstrate roads and highways are key enablers in making their cities smart and thus more prosperous,” says Håkon Volldal, CEO of Q-Free. Since their humble beginnings in 1984, the company has been on a mission to leverage their unique expertise and innovative technology to improve traffic flow across the world.

Having witnessed the growing amount of smart city initiatives wherein data is becoming a crucial component in the mobility infrastructure, Q-Free started its strategic evolution from being a provider of electronic toll collection solutions to a full intelligent transport systems (ITS) company. Today Q-Free has become one brand consisting of seven acquired ITS companies, creating an extensive portfolio of five service lines with cutting-edge solutions.

The first in their portfolio, Q-Free’s electronic tolling solutions, enable cities to limit road traffic and use the revenue from tolls to build environment-friendly and effective mass transit solutions. Their parking guidance solutions give drivers dynamic, real-time information about parking availability, reducing emissions from cars circling to find parking spaces. On the other hand, their weigh-in-motion systems reduce the number of overweight trucks on roads that contribute to the rapid wear of infrastructure, increased traffic emissions, and road safety problems. The company also limits the emissions from idling cars through their smart traffic controllers which allow smooth traffic flows through intersections.
Promoting seamless integration and transparency between these innovative service lines, Q-Free’s OpenTMS Advanced Traffic Management System’s (ATMS) modular platform can interface with multiple platforms and other solutions, providing a data collection, analysis, and distribution capability which enables real-time management. For example, it incorporates parking management and guidance including both urban and truck parking, allowing traffic operators to monitor and enforce parking within regions. It also gives operators road pricing information from congestion charging systems thereby allowing them to plan for upcoming traffic patterns/ events and post relevant information on highways signs. It also caters to information exchanges with Cooperative ITS/ Connected Vehicle infrastructure and has traffic signal control software that allows fully integrated urban and inter-urban system management.

Stockholm and Gothenburg are among the cities that partnered with Q-Free for their ‘smart city’ drives and deployed a congestion tax system wherein the company supplied Automatic License Plate Recognition (ALPR) tools. The initiative demonstrated traffic reduction of 20 percent in Stockholm and 10 percent in Gothenburg. Furthermore, travel time improved by 30 percent and 25 percent while gas emissions were reduced by eight percent and five percent. Today, Q-Free serves 300 parking facilities and does traffic management for more than 500,000 lane-miles of roadway used by 25 million people. The company has more than 400 employees across 20 markets, who work together to foster ease of mobility across neighborhoods.

Some of the other innovations that Q-Free is presently working on include radar-based parking sensors to further reduce investment overhead for their clients. Systems for weigh-in-motion for trucks combined with electronic tolling systems and weather stations with traffic management centers are among the other projects being developed within the company’s labs. “As Q-Free builds clear and distinctive leadership positions in its target segments, we have the opportunity to more than double in size in the coming five years through organic initiatives,” concludes Volldal.


Hakon Volldal, CEO and Chesapeake, VA

Brings a smart city ITS portfolio comprising five service lines with cuttingedge solutions for tolling, parking, inter-urban, urban, and infomobility