Innovation UK > News > Innovation UK Vol5-1 > Moving goods and people intelligently

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Moving goods and people intelligently

The Intelligent Transport Systems KTN actively seeks out innovations that can improve our transport systems

Our task is twofold. We are focused upon meeting the challenges posed by our need to travel and move goods. We must do this effectively, efficiently and with a reduced impact on our communities and the environment, if we are to secure the quality of life we deserve. Such is the crucial role of transport in the economy. In addition, we are focused on assisting UK wealth creators to supply the products and services to make this happen, both in the UK and across the global market.

The Intelligent Transport Systems Knowledge Transfer Network (ITS KTN) has its foundation in transport telematics, the application of IT, communications and electronics to addressing the efficiency, safety and environmental issues in transport, predominantly, road transport. However, in reality we are an issues-based network that focuses upon systems issues about moving goods and people. This needs to take into account the whole door-to-door experience of journeys, and may sometimes question the requirement to travel at all in some circumstances.

Crucial to how we operate is looking at transport in systems terms, starting with overarching issues that are driving effectiveness in this domain. Why do we want to travel, or move goods? How can we do this cost effectively? What is stopping the journey or delivery times from being accurately predictable? How can we cope with unexpected incidents when they occur? We can then focus on existing ways of solving the problem or indeed new approaches to the problem. Only once we know what we want and how we might achieve it can we seek out the relevant technologies to enable such solutions to exist.

Using an electronic horizon to reduce fuel use and thus CO2

Linking issues to solutions and underlying technology is crucial to understanding where innovation opportunities exist. To support this analysis, we have developed a comprehensive Technology Road Map. It is software-based and provides a rich repository of information that has been garnered from news filtering and studies and from workshop discussions with participants from a range of industries and technologies. It describes how technology fits in the transport domain; with a time dimension showing maturity levels for technology and solutions ? technology readiness levels ? together with the time relevance of issues. We use the Technology Road Map to inform all of what we do, finding the gaps in that understanding. We also use it to assist our UK stakeholders and inform their planning purposes.

As we are as focused upon wealth creation as much as we are focused upon on solving transport issues, then it is important for us to understand the market potential for new innovative solutions globally. Few of the solutions the UK could develop have a relevance only to the UK so we need world-class solutions with world-class potential. Thus, we have published a Global Market Study for ITS. It brings together a variety of authoritative sources into one document and within one framework for quantifying whether a market exists globally for the solutions to be created. It is available through our website on request.

The KTN was founded to support the Innovation Platform in Intelligent Transport Systems and Services (ITSS IP). This was one of the two initial innovation platforms with others now established under the auspices of the UK?s Technology Strategy Board. Its goals are to understand the key issues for improving the efficiency of the UK transport network and to join up the innovation funding available so as to assist UK firms benefit at all points in the innovation cycle in this domain. It has the active support of the UK research councils, Department for Transport (DfT), the Department for Business Enterprise and Regulatory Reform (BERR) and the regional development agencies in delivering its agenda.

It has recently revamped its plans and its focus is ?moving goods and people intelligently?. Our role is to assist with information about the interventions and calls that stem from the programme as well as inform what might be incorporated into that agenda through engagement with the various stakeholders. Increasingly, this information is prepared using both small, structured workshops to which key players are invited and larger consultative events. The Technology Road Map and global market study support these activities throughout.

Being issue-focused and looking at how to make transport work better distinguishes the ITS KTN from many others sponsored by the Technology Strategy Board in as much as they are technology-focused generically, seeking application across many domains. Transport is one for which innovative technology is crucial for progress. We thus work with other KTNs and other network organisations, bringing together those with the transport problems to solve and interpreting what might be useful areas for innovation, then working with other KTNs to deliver the specialist skills in those technology areas to yield new solutions to those problems.

Linking technology challenges and market drivers to stimulate innovation with timelines to enable technology intercept and R&D planning

We have had a series of workshops looking at a variety of issues in transport modelling. The trend in transport modelling is towards increasing scope and complexity. The size of the transport network to be encompassed is always growing; once one can model an intersection then model a series of intersections combined, then an area of the city then the whole city... At the same time, the number of factors to take into account also increases. Allowing for a variety of goals: reducing CO2 whilst also reducing congestion and increasing throughput and always maintaining if not improving safety. The models require greater complexity in how travellers and vehicles are modelled; accommodating variety and subtlety in the travelling public.

At all times, the models are striving to describe the real-world scenario as faithfully as possible. Such modelling is crucial to informed planning decisions; especially when large public works, and large funding is at stake. It is also seen as increasingly important as an operational aid. Transport operators are discussing how modelling can be used to more precisely forecast problems before they occur or ensure that a corrective intervention has no unforeseen bad circumstances. All of this requires larger models for which there is a performance issue. We have been working with the KTNs for Industrial Mathematics and for Grid Computing to bring the transport modellers with these issues together with specialists with technology solutions.

Similarly, road operators are looking for increasingly sophisticated methods to manage traffic to avoid congestion. Examples of the latest thinking can be seen on the M42 near the National Exhibition Centre in Birmingham where Active Traffic Management (a mixture of hard shoulder running, reduced speed limits and metering the access of vehicles onto the motorway) is used to improve the throughput of this stretch of highway and reduce the congestion experienced on this heavily used piece of road.

Highway operators seek better ways to monitor this traffic. They need more precise ways of analysing the traffic flows, in all weathers and cheaper. A KTN workshop has introduced a wider community of firms with sensing technologies, to the requirements of the highway operators. This came about from co-operation between our KTN and the KTN focused on sensing technologies.

Adopting a systems approach, there is more to reducing CO2 emissions than driving smaller cars and moving to hybrids and electric vehicles. Key will be looking at what we can deliver now and in the medium term, assuming we retain the vehicle technologies of today. Technologies being considered are those that support car sharing as well as improved public transport. Enhanced traffic management working co-operatively with vehicles can also assist. The topic of Co-operative Vehicle Infrastructure Systems is key for development into the future. In such systems, vehicles communicate with each other and with the infrastructure to share information that can deliver much improved safety as well as efficiency benefits. It can also deliver reduced fuel use, which implies lower running costs and savings in CO2. We have had a series of workshops to bring together those interested in these co-operative systems; initially looking at safety applications but increasingly widened to look at efficiency and environmental challenges.

An example of what can be achieved is a project that is part funded by innovITS as part of the ITSS Innovation Platform, called SENTIENCE. A consortium led by Ricardo has delivered a SENTIENCE vehicle that uses ITS data feeds, such as augmented map data, to improve the fuel efficiency of a vehicle. Early testing of one of the features that provides an economy driving version of intelligent cruise control has demonstrated significant fuel savings. The contribution to CO2 reduction from more thorough thinking about the transport system and intelligence is still in its infancy and we intend to build upon this and other early indications of ITS applicability.

There is much more that the KTN is doing to deliver transport systems that move people and goods more intelligently. Whether it be to understand better ways of combining travel plans, tickets and on trip information, to better ways of organising home delivery we are pushing for innovations across transport. To find out more about what we are doing, visit our website, which also has an RSS feed service for up-to-date news. You can also request the market study. Most importantly, if you want to participate in the innovation agenda to deliver intelligent transport systems, then please engage with us.

For more information,
contact the KTN team:

Added the 26 August 2009 in category Innovation UK Vol5-1

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