Excitement was high as we sent some of our team to Birmingham to attend this years’ Highways UK. With nearly 6,000 attendees, this year was the biggest and best yet. The transport industry is full of innovation, and Highways UK brought the driving force of it under one roof. To be part of this, and to provide the market with a first glimpse of our new Urban Traffic Control, Powered by SCOOT 7 was an important and much anticipated step for us.
Transport is evolving everywhere you look. Earlier this year, the DfT said we are in a “time of unprecedented change”. But is anyone sure what the change will be? Listening to the talks at Highways UK proved one thing: no one is certain, but everyone wants to figure it out. However, planning for future mobility cannot be at the detriment of current mobility. As transport evolves, the technology that is used to plan and control the traffic created as a result needs to do the same, but it also needs to work for us now. A fundamental principle we built our UTC around, it was so good to hear that reflected back at Highways UK. Future proofing whilst still maximising current infrastructure is important as move into uncertain times.
Over the two days, Highways UK was buzzing with Thought Leaders from across the UK sharing their thoughts and ideas. With over 200 talks throughout the course of the event there were plenty of discussions on diverse topics that effect our industry. It is hard to choose the best talks, but here are our three highlights:
Preparing for Connected and Automated Vehicles (Jo White, Highways England)
A hot topic in 2019, set to only get hotter as we move into 2020. Highways England are helping lead the way with an impressive portfolio of CAV trials alongside TRL, DfT and TfL. During her presentation, Jo White took us through how learnings from the trial are helping inform the wider digital roads vision. Most interesting from this was the potential impact of CAVs on our road:
- Reduce 75% – 95% of road traffic accidents
- Contribute £51 billion to GDP
- Reduce congestion
- Reduce the demand of infrastructure
- Improve customer service
- A more accessible road network
It’s hard not to see the value of developing CAV technology when presented with a list like that! However, developing the technology alone isn’t enough. It is dependent on a wider infrastructure of connectivity and openness. This feeds into something at the core of TRL Software: Open Data. Without sharing data, and the learnings from it, the success of CAVs on our road is limited. Making sure that we share and collaborate across the board is essential. As Kum Wah Choy (Costain) later suggested, cross-industry collaboration isn’t going to be easy, but the benefits can be huge.
The Future is Digital – How do we Make it Happen? (Paul Campion, TRL)
This may seem a little biased, but a highlight for us was our own CEO’s talk on Digital Mobility (promise we weren’t bribed). What pulled through during Paul’s speech was that whether we want this or not, transport is going to change. In fact, it is already in the process of changing and becoming more “digital”. We have seen countless other industries utilise digitalisation for the better, and it is time for transport to start proactively doing the same. We are at a unique point where not only is it an imperative to change (transport is the single largest contributor to greenhouse gases in the UK), but it is also easier than ever. Everything is part way there already: our cars are instrumented, we are instrumented even our infrastructure is instrumented.
But how do we actually do it? This is where Paul introduced the Digital Twin. Already used throughout manufacturing, the Digital Twin can be used to help is understand the physical world. Using an ecosystem of connected digital twins can help create plans for the real world and help make things better. Using data that we already generate we can inform and enable real interventions based on simulations for a safer, cleaner and more efficient future.
What shone through for us again is that we need open data. It’s not enough for this data to just exist, like transport is a derived demand, data has no value if it’s not used. We need to maximise the data we are already generating and make sure the right people have access to it so they can help drive the future of transport.
Designing safer roads through the iRAP star rating assessment (Chris Furneaux & James Bradford, iRAP)
On average, over 70 people are killed or seriously injured every day in road crashes in the UK. International Road Assessment Programme – iRAP – is being proactively used to create better roads and safer journeys not just in the UK, but across the world. With a target of providing access to safe, affordable, accessible and sustainable transport systems for all and improving road safety by 2030 Chris and James took us through the proactive steps iRAP takes in achieving it.
The talk demonstrated real-world processes that we can do to make our roads safer and improve their iRAP star rating. Research shows that a person’s risk of death or serious injury is approximately halved for each incremental improvement in star rating. For every star, it makes a real difference to the people using the roads.
Safety is a value that sits at the heart of TRL Software. Every step of the way we want to make sure we are making the roads safer for those using them, so it was a privilege to listen to an organisation that shares the same values and is proactively making a difference.
As the transport industry undergoes significant political, social, technological, environmental and legal changes, the future is constantly evolving. It is undeniably driving uncertainty and disruption but having events such as Highways UK let’s us have a better understanding of what our future may be. Collaboration is the key to success and as long as thought leaders continue to attend these types of events, we will be one step closer. Thank you to everyone who helped organise Highways UK – we look forward to seeing you next year!