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Latest Angles

Jonathan Spear
24 Mar 2017

That mission is to achieve intelligent mobility in urban transportation, not merely as a theoretical technical and design concept, or as a set of web-enabled travel applications, but to instil it at the heart of the national consciousness.

This is a lofty claim, but there are two recent examples to back it up.  

The first example, the 2016 National Day Parade, featured a view of what Singapore will look like when it celebrates 100 years of independence in 2065; a sky city where individuals and families will be able to access a wealth of travel choices from their connected household or personal devices, and be taken on-demand by driverless pods to wherever they want to go, whenever they want to go there, on roads which are free-flowing and without congestion.

The second example, this year’s Chinese New Year celebrations featured the usual dazzling lantern displays down by the marina. It was dominated, of course, by a massive illuminated rooster (this year’s zodiac sign), but also prominent was an unmissable Smart Nation display and within this two life-sized mock ups of the Gemini, a prototype autonomous electric capsule produced by TUM-CREATE, a technical research centre at the National University of Singapore.

These two examples are interesting because they are not aimed at the usual urban or transportation professionals, or at technology researchers, concerned with the planning or design of infrastructure.  Nor are they part of the numerous autonomous vehicle testing taking place under the auspices of the Singapore Autonomous Vehicle Initiative (SAVI). Rather, they are pitched to the general public, residents and visitors, and with a clear message: we can see the future of mobility, it is intelligent, connected, automated …. and it works.

So that can we actually expect from Singapore in intelligent mobility when it reaches its first century, a little under 50 years from now, not only as a vision, but how it relates to infrastructure and the planning, design and operation of the public realm?

Here are my views: like the Jetsons in 1962, deliberately visionary, perhaps provocative and unconstrained by the real technical, social and economic practicalities of getting there, but a big picture to kick-start the debate.

Will everyone actually use autonomous vehicles?

Yes, almost certainly, and driverless transport will come in all shapes and sizes, service configurations, user tastes and value-added services.  It will also be electric, powered by hydrogen fuel-cells and other renewable sources, connected to the Internet of Things, and linked up to the smart grid and other technologies designed to limit energy intensity and carbon footprint to the absolute minimum.

Will people really use a single personal application and account on their personal device to access, compare and buy multi-modal travel options easily and intuitively?

Absolutely, and the current public transport smartcards and journey planning apps may evolve into a single iTravel online store offering hundreds of blended travel products for a monthly fee, tailored to individual needs and topped up on demand. This will be able to advise and adapt when the transport network is disrupted or conditions change in real-time.   

Will rich data on transport infrastructure, network condition and asset availability, be universally collated, managed and disseminated via open platforms to inform people, and assist and nudge their journey experience, as they move around the city each day?

Definitely: And this data will also enable city managers (perhaps Google and Apple rather than, or in partnership with, BMW or Hyundai) to run infrastructure and vehicles more efficiently, reliably and sustainably, and deploy the right resources at different times and circumstances. Linking with other smart city systems and services, there will also be clear rules and operating practices which will regulate the governance, flow and integrity of this data in real-time, like the human brain regulates blood and nutrients as it flows through the living body.

The really exciting part of all this is how everything will join up. Infrastructure. Autonomy. Information. Pricing. Choice. Data. Energy. Service. Citizenship. All this will combine to deliver an integrated, reliable and intuitive user experience with simultaneously informs network managers and supports a liveable, sustainable and attractive city. And perhaps iTravel, or a similar concept, really could emerge as the brand, product and app store that encapsulates it, disrupts and changes everything.  

What does this mean for transport and urban planning and design in Singapore?

In Singapore, a small island state at the tip of Asia where space is scarce, this vision has a clear focus. Intelligent mobility in all its combinations, will drive a sharp reduction in private car ownership – and all the negative social and environmental impacts that go with it. With technology causing the barriers between cars, public transport and forms of personal mobility to shatter, owning a physical asset which costs tens of thousands of dollars and spends 95% of its time parked at home or at the office will be illogical and pointless. In 2065, the convenience of flexible personal travel on demand by multiple means will be available to just about everyone, without a private ownership model, at a level of service they want for a price which all can afford.

As part and parcel of this, in my opinion, transport infrastructure will be smaller and smarter, freeing up land for other uses and a greener and more inclusive public realm. Transport operators will be able to create more integrated service offers and products focused on the user and generating sustainable revenue streams to fund investment and make commercial returns.

It is even conceivable that by the time Singapore turns 100 the government may have banned manual driving altogether, and removed the right (or the privilege) of having a personal driving license. Or more likely, safety regulations, insurance premiums and market forces, with a slight push from government regulation, will just make driving so prohibitively expensive that very few will want and afford to do it, just like, as Elon Musk has said, owning a race horse or holding a private flying license.

I don’t currently own a car in Singapore. And I have no need and intention of doing so. Public transport is first class and taxis and ride brokers like Grab or Uber provide easy access when the trains and buses can’t get me there. Personal mobility in Singapore is tremendous in 2017. But I look forward immensely to seeing how the transport system will improve further in future years and how intelligent mobility will progressively reshape my life and the lives of those around me. After all, intelligent mobility is ultimately about people rather than robots.

This will happen elsewhere, of course, but with enablers such as government leadership, supportive businesses and a tech-savvy public, expect a few visionary cities, like Singapore, to lead the way, and transform their urban infrastructure and built environment as a result. 

Singapore has an unashamed big vision for transport at 100 – big commitments, big actions and big results will be needed to secure that vision and ensure it benefits everyone. We will need to think creatively around making concepts real, combine function with physical design and efficient operation, focus on user needs and craft viable delivery models to make a future that works. At Atkins we must gear up now to see how we can help in that process. 

To find out more about intelligent mobility from Atkins, visit our hub and join our LinkedIn group.

Asia Pacific ,

Nathan Marsh
21 Mar 2017

Part of the North’s current and future attractiveness, to live, work, visit and invest, lies within is its connectivity and mobility network. However, the existing transport network is complex: an interlinked set of travel modes, routes and technologies, underpinned by a broad range of commercial contracts and structures.

This matters, as a key characteristic of an effective and attractive region is its physical and digital connectivity, both between and within cities, regions and towns.  As the North continues to grow, pressures on its network, also grow.

To increase connectivity on a constrained network, we need to think and act differently.  This is where intelligent mobility – the connection of people, places and services through reimagined infrastructure across all transport modes and enabled by data, technology and innovative ideas – can revolutionise how we approach these challenges.

One intelligent mobility approach is known as Mobility as a Service (MaaS). 

MaaS encourages people to think about their journeys in the whole context of getting from A to B, rather than as a series of constituent parts.  It is tailor-made around their individual needs and preferences. For example, users can pay for multi-modal journeys with a single account, pay per trip or via a monthly subscription to cover end-to-end, integrated journeys making the most of all travel modes such as rail to bike, park and ride, bus and walking.

The development of a seamless MaaS offering can deliver greater network efficiencies and tackle existing transport challenges by:

  • positively changing the behaviours of commuters to address challenges such as urbanisation, population growth and expanding towns and cities
  • reducing congestion and journey times, improving health and wellbeing from safer travel and reducing noise and pollution exposure.
  • improving strategic insight and aiding decision-making so the transport network can meet customer needs and changing preferences and behaviours.

These digitally and commercially enabled approaches (such as MaaS) require us to be organised and to operate differently in the future, using our existing physical infrastructure in new, and in some cases, unprecedented ways.

The publication of the Vehicle, Technology and Aviation Bill includes key measures to support the next generation of transport in the UK, providing a real opportunity for the regional transport strategy for the North to respond.

By planning for both incremental and transformative change and progress, the region can plan to unlock digital capability and innovations alongside its existing physical and commercial infrastructure.

The North has the scale, vision, ambition and capability to lead the UK in an improved intelligent mobility network – to drive and attract economic activity and retain its attractiveness as a great place to live, work and invest – moving from delivering transport, to improving mobility for all.

UK & Europe ,

Lila Tachtsi
20 Mar 2017

Data is valuable, it’s the new currency. In many sectors, including transport, it becomes invaluable when it is gathered, analysed and transformed into operational and business intelligence. And now there is a great potential for doing so in real-time, offering even bigger opportunities for the travel experience. It’s how we use data that will inform and influence the design of our future cities.

We have released a white paper that considers how we can use insights from big data to influence strategic decision-making and user behaviour.

As well as adding extra network capacity and delivering a better customer experience, big data presents an incredible opportunity to influence people’s behaviour, offering travellers with smarter and more sustainable transport choices.

For example, in a world of connected and autonomous vehicles (CAVs), we can gather data that will inform us about the condition of the transport network, traveller and vehicle behaviour, usage peaks and troughs, the design and operation of towns and cities, and social trends. The maximum value of collaborative CAVs will only be possible with shared ownership and better planned urban networks.

Atkins is currently expanding its use of big data to include mobile phone data, GPS data and a wide range of maintained data assets and connected sensors. This helps us to plan and design future services, quickly address any issues on the network, inform customers of disruptions, travel updates and much more. This is just the tip of what is possible.  We have a growing portfolio of big data insight projects based on more generic and well-maintained data sources, and built on data analytics platforms that can automate common analysis, which enables substantial productivity and quality improvements. 

Using big data insight, we will be able to encourage and incentivise users of the transport system to move closer to their workplace and popular facilities, as well as to more sustainable transport and urban environments. Contemporary planning will help ensure we have the right travel alternatives in the right place and at the right time, making these long term choices attractive.

So what do we need to do now?

  • We need to increase the ‘velocity’ of traditional data analytics from what might be several weeks to a matter of minutes, with big data enabling new forms of algorithms and models to be trained and applied on accelerated computer systems.
  • We need to find a way to ensure data can be shared seamlessly across systems and sectors so we can maximise the benefits of big data for society as a whole.
  • We need to show the general public the benefits that sharing data can have so public opinion can shift and we can better improve people’s lives and journeys through having access to the bigger picture.

By capturing data and applying scenario planning, we can chart our route towards a more connected, automated and data-driven future, and a better passenger experience for us all.

To read the full study click here. To find out more about intelligent mobility from Atkins, visit our hub and join our LinkedIn group.

UK & Europe , Group , Asia Pacific , Middle East , North America , Rest of World ,

Jim Hanson
14 Mar 2017

As professional engineers, we have a responsibility to help meet this challenge by assisting clients and communities in designing, managing, and operating the roadways of tomorrow, today. That means helping agencies make a monumental shift from relying only on hard capital assets to improve safety and mobility to embracing innovation and technology.

The traditional transportation department charge to effectively build, maintain, and operate highways and their associated infrastructure remains unchanged. But it should be augmented by the integration of innovation and technology solutions for reducing deadly accidents, alleviating traffic delays, and communicating road conditions to travelers.

In many states, intelligent transportation systems are already supporting traffic signals, lane controls, variable message signs, and video monitoring of traffic and highways. Through planned improvements in analytics and integration, existing systems can be enhanced and contribute to more efficient roadway operations. This innovation will help increase the level of critical information that can be disseminated to roadway users, and help manage and operate transportation systems more effectively.

The simple reality is that we cannot build our way out of congestion. The need for a transformation in transportation is revving up in states across the country, and Colorado is among them. Colorado Department of Transportation has taken a bold step to effect change and transform its aging transportation system by embracing technology. Their goal is to be one of the most technologically advanced transportation systems in the nation.

In launching the RoadX Program, CDOT made a commitment to aggressive implementation of new transportation technology within the next 10 years. In support of their aggressive timetable, CDOT took a unique approach to selecting consultants to help advise and lead idea generation. Instead of selecting a single consultant, CDOT selected three (Atkins being one), and they share equal responsibility of solidifying partnerships and entrepreneurial relationships. CDOT’s approach is paying off, with leaders from public organizations and private industry all working together, bringing the brightest innovators to the table from Colorado, across the nation, and around the world.

CDOT is definitely sending a signal that the state means business as it pledges to improve safety for all who use its roadways. They launched a RoadX Bicycle and Pedestrian Challenge that demonstrates the kind of out-of-thebox thinking that takes public involvement to another level. The challenge will award a total of $500,000 to innovators who have the best ideas to improve safety for bicyclists and pedestrians in Colorado. And in an effort to encourage the best and brightest ideas, CDOT held a networking event with its leadership, industry partners, and innovators to facilitate connections between the individuals, businesses, and agencies that are considering submitting ideas. This emphasis on collaboration at every turn is a differentiator for CDOT, and it is also an approach other transportation agencies can emulate to encourage stakeholder engagement.

Further integration of technology and transportation is simply inevitable. Helping to transform and deliver more efficient, agile, and flexible transportation systems to communities should drive us to take action. This is the type of opportunity to make a difference that led many of us to pursue the engineering profession in the first place.

This article was originally published in the March/April edition of PE Magazine.

North America ,

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To most people, the M25 is 440km of motorway, a daily commute or a punchline. 

But to a small group of specialists it is most visible as a stream of data. From thousands of cameras and other sensors, they see progress, air quality, climate, accidents and repairs. 

In June 2015, Atkins teams in London, India and the US joined forces with innovation partners Fluxx and Connect Plus Services, the organisation that manages the M25, to develop innovative ways to use this data to improve the lives of commuters.  

The brief was simple; deliver intelligent interventions to improve travel experiences

“I know the pain that people suffer on the M25, and seeing the data that we collect being used in a completely different way, the benefits it unlocks, is brilliant,” said Tim Hughes, Intelligent Mobility product manager at Atkins.

This event, organised by the Atkins Digital Incubator, represented a new way of working. “How do we drive value more quickly?” asks Atkins' CDO Richard Cross, “Not spend months thinking, but develop something quickly, experiment and improve?”

“What’s crucial is having the transport planners in the room,” said product manager Ashkan Miri. “They’re working directly with developers to build the vision of the product they’re working on.”

To learn more about digital engineering or book a visit to the Atkins Digital Incubator, contact Gary Wilson: Gary.Wilson@atkinsglobal.com

UK ,

Atkins as part of the VENTURER consortium is trialling autonomous vehicles in the Bristol and South Gloucestershire council areas to explore the feasibility of driverless cars in the UK. The trial is being funded by Innovate UK to investigate the legal and insurance aspects of the new technology and explore how the public react to such vehicles.

Transport Minister Claire Perry and Business Secretary Vince Cable launched the VENTURER consortium’s driverless car trial in February 2015, giving the project the green light to test autonomous vehicles in the real world.

The VENTURER consortium is made up of a range of organisations from across different sectors:

  • Atkins: lead partner, providing project co-ordination, delivery and intelligent mobility expertise
  • AXA UK: insurance and legal expertise  
  • Bristol City Council and South Gloucestershire Council: access to public roads and local road network intelligence
  • First Bus: as part of the work being done around driver assistance technologies, First will provide a bus as a means of collecting data
  • Fusion Processing: advanced sensor systems
  • Williams Advanced Engineering: driving simulator expertise
  • Centre for Transport and Society, University of the West of England: research on public expectations, acceptance and response
  • University of Bristol: car to infrastructure communications
  • Bristol Robotics Lab, University of the West of England & University of Bristol: hosting the trial centre and providing systems integration and decision-making algorithms.

The VENTURER trial will run for 36 months. Testing of the consortium’s autonomous vehicle, the BAE Systems Wildcat, on private and public roads is due to begin in early 2016.

UK ,

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