Mapping the route to Intelligent Transport Systems deployment. - The challenges faced by transport are well known, but solutions are harder to find
Whether it is improving the efficiency and reliability of journeys, making them safer or more environmentally friendly, Intelligent Transport Systems (ITS) are increasingly being recognised as often cost-effective options for transport improvements offering improved traffic management, decision support and demand management as well as supporting smarter choices through better travel information and personal services.
As is often the case with technology however, ITS solutions can be solutions in search of problems, or at least not directly addressing the real issues that transport users and transport authorities face. To ensure that the transport challenges are genuinely met, the development of new technologies requires a constructive and evolving dialogue between users, technology providers and procuring agencies.
In the UK this process is being supported by the Intelligent Transport Systems Knowledge Transfer Network (ITS KTN) which links government agencies and industry, local authority and academic networks to facilitate knowledge sharing and drive the development technology for sustainable transport solutions. The process is facilitated by themed workshops around specific challenges and the evolving dialogue is captured and communicated through the development of a technology roadmap describing the landscape of the issues, challenges, solutions and technologies. The roadmap, as illustrated in the diagram, aims to identify the applications and technologies that meet real challenges and also satisfy market requirements.
As a case study, the ITS KTN has run a series of workshops exploring the issues around Sustainable Freight that have included government departments and agencies, local authorities, freight operators, technology providers and academic researchers among many others. The issues and challenges in achieving a strong yet sustainable freight industry are significant. The environmental impact of freight movement in particular is often at odds with business effectiveness. At a local level for example, the movement of freight through an urban network can have major environmental impact on local emissions, noise levels and safety.
However, that movement is often a requirement for a thriving local economy, with many retailers and manufacturers relying on just-in-time deliveries to town centre sites or out-of-town business parks. Similarly, booming internet shopping is supported by increasing home deliveries, often with different small vans running to the same streets.
Through the workshops we have captured a freight operator?s perspective and here the focus is one primarily of cost. With fuel costs running at more than 50% of the total, fuel efficiency is right at the top of the list. Here ITS solutions can help significantly. One major UK operator reports BCR of 3:1 for fleet management system, mainly based on fuel savings, so the business case for investment in technology is strong. However, with most operators operating at a margin of less than 4% return on sales, there is little scope for investment and still less for engaging in development projects.
One of the key drivers for transport authorities is the reduction in local emissions, both carbon dioxide and pollutants, and a number of technology solutions are presenting themselves. London, of course, is using technology as enforcement of its Low Emission Zone. For heavy freight the ability to maintain ?way? is crucial to fuel efficiency and reducing emissions. A co-operative solution involving traffic signalling could provide a ?green wave?, perhaps to a platoon of several freight vehicles. The requirement for greater co-operation between freight operators and infrastructure providers has been a consistent theme.
Driving more smartly can reap huge fuel savings and these translate directly into reductions in CO2. At least one manufacturer has already trialled an ITS solution in which information provided to the driver of a vehicle in a heavily congested urban environment yielded significant fuel savings. In a project called SENTIENCE, currently nearing completion here in the UK, an industry consortium is investigating how map-based and traffic information can be directly used to control a vehicle to deliver similar fuel savings. By taking into account how the road ahead bends and goes up and down hill, together with the traffic conditions expected ahead, the vehicle is better able to adapt its acceleration and braking and optimise its use of ancillary systems such as air conditioning. Why accelerate when approaching a sharp bend or a traffic light that is about to switch to red? Use the air conditioning unit now when there is surplus energy available and not when about to climb a hill.
Underpinning many of these technology solutions, from real-time traffic information, fleet management, sophisticated route planning or next-generation driver assistance systems, is a requirement for sophisticated data management and modelling. As a separate theme the ITS KTN has been exploring the requirements in this area too, supported by experts in high-performance computing and mathematics. Again the focus has been to identify the user requirements and to understand how the latest methods can be applied to real problems. It emerged quickly that the prime issue for much modelling, particularly for transport planning, is one of speed, with long run-times of the conventional models a significant constraint on what can be achieved and the quality of the results. As a direct result of the workshop one of the leading consultancies has linked up with experts from Oxford University to dramatically speed up one of the main planning models used in the UK.
In the final analysis we are only going to solve the transport challenges we face by applying technology in innovative ways. This will require new solutions and may need new players to deliver effectively. We can learn from other industries in terms of business models and technology. The ITS KTN welcomes participation with any innovator with something to contribute.
Added the 11 September 2008 in category Innovation UK Vol4-1