Capacity Manager – blacc, Immense, Elgin, University of Warwick, and O2
Transport authorities, such as Transport for West Midlands, increasingly need a step change in capability to make more effective decisions around managing their road network.
Understanding the available capacity on the road network in near real-time, including the impact of events, incidents and roadworks, is key to managing congestion and journey time reliability.
Unlike public transport operators, who have access to data on seat availability on trains and buses, allowing for the accurate estimates for future demand and availability, there is no such tool for operators across the road network. Therefore, it is impossible to accurately estimate the impact on capacity of planned roadworks and public events that both disrupt traffic, creating greater demands on the network.
This is where the 5G Enabled Dynamic Network Capacity Manager will look to support the roadwork operators by using 5G traffic sensing data for dynamic traffic management. The project will enable traffic managers to optimise the road network to mitigate disruptions that impact traffic.
This is particularly important in the West Midlands where £10bn of infrastructure investment is planned over the next five years, including highly disruptive activities such as HS2 construction and the 2022 Commonwealth Games.
Motorists in Birmingham spend 9% of total journey time in traffic at an estimated cost to the economy of £407m per annum. Even before the COVID-19 pandemic a 34% increase in traffic was predicted across the region over the next 15 years.
With a likely reduction in public transport and greater reliance on car usage, Covid-19 is expected to further exacerbate the need for better tools to predict and mitigate congestion.
This project has the potential to create a massive beneficial impact to peoples’ lives, both in the West Midlands and beyond as the technology is rolled out more widely across the UK and beyond.
Fundamentally, the project will transform Transport for West Midlands’s ability to dynamically monitor and predict capacity across the road network.
So, understanding network capacity is the key to optimising and improving traffic management mitigations in advance for planned disruptions. This enable a more proactive approach in managing road networks, as seen in train and tram operations.
The tool will inform operators of the percentage of the available network capacity and enable them to run scenarios and test the impact of the of proposed works. This will generate an understanding of the impact of incidents and enable response scenarios to be run in a near real time way, increasing network management in a more proactive and coordinated way.
The system will use “probe data” gathered from the 5G network, which will provide dynamic and anonymised information about vehicle movements enabling traffic congestion to be accurately monitored, modelled, and predicted.
The lower latency and faster communications will facilitate the effective use of cloud/servers for scalability and efficiency of machine learning and agent-based simulations. This along with the other 5G enablers will allow for efficient modelling of up-to-date predictions, potential congestion and planning for the impact of future road closures.
The total project length is 15 months, starting in September 2020 and running to September 2021.
Initially, the core testing area for the Capacity manager will be the A35 from M42 J6 to the Birmingham Ring Road. There are also plans to add the A4114 to Coventry and the A38 from M6J6 to Minworth Island.