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Latest Angles

Suzanne Murtha
08 Aug 2017

When? I’m an IOO, do I have to act today?

To begin, the legislation we describe in detail below is being considered by the US House of Representatives. The US Senate is also working on their own version of AV-related bills, so as fast-moving as these bills are, they still need to clear the House and the Senate. It is reasonable to think that some version of AV-related federal legislation won’t clear both chambers immediately and the Senate bill(s) will be introduced sometime in September 2017.

What exactly is this? 

On July 27 in a 54-0 vote, the House Energy and Commerce Committee unanimously passed the DECAL Act (HR 3388), a bill related to automated vehicles. We haven’t seen the Senate version yet, and the House bill was not approved by the full House. Here are some key considerations for the DECAL Act:

  • Congress clearly wants the federal government to take the lead on any public policy regarding automated vehicles.
  • Congress also wants to define the role of states and IOOs, including:
    • Vehicle registration
    • Licensing
    • Driver education and training
    • Insurance
    • Law enforcement
    • Crash investigations 
    • Safety and emissions inspections
    • Congestion management of vehicles on the street
    • IOOs may prescribe higher performance standards than federal
  • The bill would:
    • Require cybersecurity plans and points of contact from all manufacturers of any vehicle with any automation.
    • Require privacy protection plans and points of contact from all manufacturers of any vehicle with any automation.
    • Increase the annual number of vehicles that may be exempted from certain regulatory standards in order to facilitate the development of automated vehicles. 
    • Establish through the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) a Highly Automated Vehicle Information Sharing Advisory Council to make recommendations regarding the development of a framework that allows manufacturers of highly automated vehicles to share information related to testing or deployment events on public streets.

So, what does this mean to you as an IOO?

  • Within a few months, if you’re in one of the 22 states with laws or regulations related to automated vehicles, those laws may soon be inapplicable.
  • The DECAL Act, as it stands, and even previous versions and the NHTSA AV guidance document, do spell out specific roles for IOOs. 
  • It’s clear that no matter how the legislative process turns out, Congress and the federal government are under pressure to manage automated vehicle-related rules. Plan for that. Plan to adjust your policies to support a stronger federal role in AV rollouts. 
  • Plan for managing data you will be receiving from connected vehicles and automated vehicles. Ensure that your data polices are compliant with privacy and security requirements laid out in the DECAL Act. These requirements are reasonable and will probably be carried forward in other versions of whatever bill is passed.

The federal government is under pressure to consolidate regulations and legislation that relate to automated vehicles. As manufacturers get closer to higher levels of automation, they need vehicles to be able to move through jurisdictions without major differences in requirements for safety, certifications and access to roadways. Congress and NHTSA have both begun to address these concerns. 

Given the overwhelming majority by which this bill was introduced to House, and our understanding of the efforts of organizations lobbying to promote federal jurisdiction, it is likely that we’ll see some closure on this issue before year-end. 

Through continuous tracking, interpretation and input concerning policies affecting intelligent transportation systems and advanced automotive technologies, we help our government, industry and automotive clients sort through the latest issues that impact the future of their business and our communities.

North America ,

Peter Blackley
12 Jun 2017

There has since been an unprecedented interest in this emerging market with the establishment of the Centre for Connected and Autonomous Vehicles (CCAV) and a steady stream of government funding to support R&D. Today, there are over 30 projects co-funded by UK government, undertaking feasibility studies, trials and testing of CAVs.

This pattern is repeated across the globe with countries such as the USA, Dubai, Singapore and China, investing heavily in this market.

For many people, there is often an assumption that when driverless cars are on the network all vehicles will be fully autonomous. This is known as Level 5 (SAE). However, for those working in the industry there is still a level of uncertainty around reaching Level 5 and how to address some of the key issues surrounding Levels 3 and 4 of autonomy. At these levels, transfer of control between the vehicle and the human driver (known as the handover process) would be required as the vehicle will not be fully autonomous.

Understanding the handover process is important from a safety, traffic management, technology, and legal and insurance perspective. For example, the length of time it takes someone to regain full control of the vehicle, represents a meaningful risk to insurers. Importantly, understanding when control is transferred between the vehicle and driver has liability implications.

To date, research on handover has focused on more experienced drivers, at high speeds and involving single handover requests. This is not necessarily typical of the day to day driving experience in urban areas. Therefore, VENTURER decided to undertake its first set of experiments with a focus on:

  • Drivers with varying levels of experience;
  • Lower speeds (20, 30, 40 and 50 mph) typical of an urban environment; 
  • Driving simulator and road experiments; and 
  • Shorter driving periods with multiple handover requests.

This first trial sought to gain a deeper understanding of:

  • How long it took participants to engage with the driving controls (steering wheel, brake, and accelerator) after a handover request;
  • Whether typical manual driving performance is achieved after handover;
  • At what time during the handover period is typical manual driving performance achieved; and
  • For how long does the driver maintain typical manual driving performance during the handover period?

The findings indicate that without a structured process there could be safety implications associated with transferring control from the autonomous system to manual driving at the speeds tested (20, 30, 40 and 50mph). Depending on the speed of the vehicle, it could have travelled a considerable distance before the driver has regained typical driving performance and full control of the vehicle. Although, the trial focused on planned handover, if these findings were translated into a situation where emergency handover is required, there could be further safety implications. This needs further exploration, and must consider factors such as how long the driver has been inactive, vehicle speed and road conditions.

There are also potential implications for highway network performance. VENTURER Trial 1 results revealed that the vehicle slowed during and after the handover process. This could result in a bunching effect on the network if handover is required at specific locations and vehicles (either manually driven or in autonomous mode) slow down to respond to this event. This could create a shockwave effect across the network, contributing to delays and congestion.

To mitigate these issues, a structured handover process must be developed. Should it be considered by industry and regulators that autonomous systems which require human input (such as handover) are not desirable, the focus would very much be on developing fully autonomous vehicles (Level 5).

Whilst driverless cars have the potential to realise safety benefits and improve mobility for all, there are possible implications that must be considered. Amongst these, is the potential for increased consumer demand which could have a knock-on effect on highway network capacity. This may present a challenge in urban areas where the highway network may already be at or approaching capacity. There may also be adverse consequences for wider policy areas, such as the promotion of active travel initiatives that support general health and well-being.

VENTURER continues to inform the future direction of CAV development by creating a greater understanding of the potential opportunities and challenges that lie ahead. For further information on the project and to read the full report, click here

[1] Automated Driving, Levels of Driving Automation are defined in new SAE International Standard J3016, http://www.sae.org/misc/pdfs/automated_driving.pdf

UK & Europe ,

Jonathan Spear
13 Apr 2017

This summit, hosted jointly by Rhode Island Department of Transportation (RIDOT) and WRA on April 6, saw presentations and contributions from Singapore, Austria, Australia, Sweden and several speakers from the USA. We are proud to have had two speakers at the summit: I set out the key international trends and challenges for CAVs from a public policy and regulatory perspective, as well as covering the implications for future highway and urban planning and design. Suzanne Murtha, senior project director from Atkins in North America, gave a focused US analysis. 

Out of the summit came some great viewpoints and plans across national boundaries, many specific and set within the local context. However, there was a remarkable degree of consensus and understanding of common issues. Here, in no particular order, are our top ten takeaways emerging across the countries represented.

  1. Widespread AV (Automated Vehicle) adoption as societal level is someway off, well into the 2020s or beyond, but preparation and planning for this prospect needs to start now, with governments leading, rather than avoiding or ignoring, the debate, especially as Connected Vehicles of varying types are currently being deployed;
  2. Governments and transport agencies need to identify and meet the substantial technical, regulatory and practical challenges in the short- and medium-term to reap the major economic, social and environmental benefits in the long-term, and strike a balance between immediate public safety, technology and innovation and private sector initiative;
  3. Much as manufacturers and developers may want a free hand, the speed of CAV development and adoption will be dictated as much by policies, laws and regulations set by government as it is by technology from industry. This includes setting proportionate, open or inter-operable technical standards and regulations which align across national boundaries and give confidence and incentive to industry to develop a range of commercial products and services;
  4. The pathways for connected infrastructure and autonomous vehicles are on different timelines, stakeholder relationships and delivery chains, with a “chicken and egg” problem for which comes first and how they interact.  If CVs are mandated, AVs will be a part of that, thereby forcing early integration of the two technology sets;
  5. The immediate focus now, and for the next few years, is on testing, demonstration, validation and deploying of CAV technology. This is vital to provide the safety case, volume of data and operating experience of vehicles and systems to assure regulators they are safe, resilient and viable for wider deployment and adoption;
  6. There is a major challenge of the transition period between manual driving by humans and fully automated vehicle operation at the societal level. Not only is the length and shape of this transition inherently uncertain, but there are major issues for how mixed traffic scenarios between manual vehicles and AVs will be managed safely and efficiently;
  7. Whilst it can be assumed that CAVs will use highway capacity more efficiently, safely and accurately, the point at which this may result in changes to physical highway design, layout and management principles, and what these changes might look like, are major areas for future research;
  8. The full benefits of CAVs in terms of reducing traffic volumes, congestion, emissions and accidents may only occur when the technology is combined with other concepts such as electrification and a shift in business model from private ownership to shared use of centrally managed fleets. The latter, in particular, will play out differently across countries and the presence, or otherwise, of a “driving culture” whereby vehicle ownership and manual operation is seen as a right rather than a utility;
  9. Governments, vehicle manufacturers, technology companies and academia will need to forge new partnerships to drive the CAV agenda forward, bringing different roles, skills sets, interests and activities together and forging active collaboration; and
  10. Ultimately, CAVs are more than a transport project. They will shape the long-term future of the spatial planning and urban form of cities and regions. Planners, architects, city managers and developers need to engage with the debate.  

One further point struck me from the discussions. CAVs are currently very much an agenda for advanced economies. Yet WRA includes member countries which are still developing in their stage of economic and social status. It is therefore important to consider new vehicle concepts, for example in Africa and Asia, which may improve road safety in particular from a more basic and appropriate technology perspective.

Rhode Island was a great forum for current thinking on the development and deployment of CAVs, a point acknowledged by RIDOT’s director in thanking “the greatest minds from across the world” for their contributions. The discussions will directly help RIDOT in developing its future CAV strategy and deployment plan, and linking this to wider spatial planning and economic development opportunities for the State.  

Furthermore, through WRA, the intention is to push the CAV agenda forward and drive further thought leadership at the World Road Congress in Abu Dhabi in 2019.

Jonathan Spear, director, strategic transport, Atkins Acuity, Singapore

Suzanne Murtha, senior project director, Atkins, Washington DC, North America

Note: Atkins is a corporate member of the World Road Association and nominates a number of technical experts to participate in Technical Committees on a four year cycle leading to a World Road Congress. Jonathan Spear is chair of a working group within Technical Committee A1 on the performance of transport administrations. The April 2017 TC meeting was hosted by RIDOT in the city of Providence and the CAV summit was conceived as an associate event bringing together TC members from several countries with local consultants and public agencies from the USA.  

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

Asia Pacific , North America ,

Suzanne Murtha
30 Mar 2017

This NPRM is US DOT’s effort at solving the 20-year-old chicken and egg problem. Who deploys first? Why would the IOO (Infrastructure Owners and Operators) invest in infrastructure to support communications if no vehicles have it?

Now, the vehicles will have it.

The rule requires that, beginning two years after issuance of a final rule, DSRC would be phased in over the following three years, at rates of 50 percent, 75 percent and 100 percent, respectively. According to NHTSA estimates, with this requirement in place, around 2040 we’ll have DSRC installed in 90 percent of new vehicles. Independent analysis of the market penetration agrees with the NPRM analysis.

If that news weren’t exciting enough, we now see not only GM announcing DSRC-based equipment in the CTS (announced September 2014), but now also in the 2018 XTS and ATS. Insiders tell us that several other automotive manufacturers are close behind with DSRC announcements.

While the NPRM does a detailed analysis of potential back office management of connected vehicle systems, as well as a highly detailed explanation of privacy and security (the document is nearly 400 pages long), NHTSA’s purview is somewhat limited with regard to the aftermarket. NHTSA can only require DSRC on new vehicles and this opens an opportunity, too, for IOO to encourage aftermarket adoption of DSRC on existing vehicles at a local level as well as deploy supporting infrastructure at a pace that makes sense for them.

Enter the egg.

Infrastructure Owners and Operators
To support the deployment of DSRC-based equipment to improve safety and mobility, US DOT also invested in three major deployments in New York City, Wyoming and Tampa. Recent US DOT fact sheets about the deployments list over 500 DSRC roadside units being deployed to support nearly 10,000 DSRC On Board Units (OBU).

The V2I Deployment Coalition has recently issued the DSRC 20x20 SPaT Challenge. Infrastructure influencers AASHTO, ITS America and ITE have teamed up with US DOT’s FHWA to encourage—challenge—IOOs across the country to install DSRC-based equipment at 20 intersections by 2020. Many cities, regions and states are jumping on this opportunity. In addition to the hundreds of existing DSRC installations, dozens of other IOOs will be deploying DSRC in the coming months.

Now, the infrastructure will have it. 

The momentum behind the DSRC continues to be remarkable. There are nearly 70 comments in the proposed rule as of today, final comments are due April 12. As of today, the bulk of these comments are specifically related to concerns about radio frequency and health. While a few comments concern other types of radio communication, the bulk of the comments are supportive and many more supportive comments are expected in the coming days.

The automotive manufacturers (OEMs) have asked the new administration for rollback of several regulations including CAFE requirements and automated vehicle policy. However, the OEMs have not asked for consideration of the DSRC NPRM and have continued full steam ahead with work to further develop DSRC-based communications. I suspect we’ll be able to view the specifically supportive comments on the NHTSA docket in the coming weeks.

So What?

  • Respond to NHTSA! You have until April 12 to tell US DOT your agency’s thoughts about vehicle to vehicle (V2V) communications using DSRC.
  • As an IOO, the advent of DSRC means that you will have access to specific vehicle data, at an increasing rate beginning now.
  • If you would like to increase your access to this data, deploy DSRC equipment at a pace that makes sense for your agency.
  • As an IOO, you are not under a mandate to deploy anything.  Deploy at your pace, prioritizing locations that could enhance safety or need the most attention.
  • Incrementally learn how to manage CV data and deploy within the CVRIA (US DOT Connected Vehicle Reference Implementation Architecture).


North America ,

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Responding to a recent population boom, Colorado Department of Transportation has taken a bold step to effect change and transform its aging transportation system by embracing technology. CDOT is investing $20 million to combat congestion and improve safety through the use of intelligent mobility technology in the next year.

As one of three consulting firms selected as advisers on the program, Atkins is serving as an extension of CDOT’s staff—helping to move projects from conception through procurement and construction—facilitating a reimagination of transportation infrastructure through intelligent mobility solutions.

RoadX’s goals include: reducing the cost of transporting goods by 25%; turning a rural state highway into a zero death road; and reducing congestion and vehicle emissions on Colorado’s critical corridors. We’re using improved analytics, innovative strategies in autonomous/connected vehicles, and big data to exceed these goals—creating a safer more efficient future.

Toward this same end, we’re currently administrating the RoadX: Bicycle & Pedestrian Challenge—soliciting innovative solutions to protect pedestrians and cyclists in Colorado. Prizes go to both the most creative ideas, and the most effective implementation strategies. Winners will be selected at the end of April.

In launching the RoadX Program, CDOT made a commitment to the aggressive implementation of new transportation technology within the next ten years. Atkins’ partnership brings our considerable experience in intelligent mobility towards facilitating that commitment—making a big difference in the lives of Colorado commuters.

For more information on CDOT’s RoadX, the Bicycle & Pedestrian Challenge, and the future of infrastructure see:


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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