A powerful new mobility cloud platform to improve the safety of road users is being tested for the first time on the open road in the UK. Drawing on the power of mobile and data technologies, the platform is a new type of information superhighway which will ultimately connect vehicles, cyclists, pedestrians and infrastructure in a seamless digital transport ecosystem.
Developed by Vodafone, Nokia and Chordant, with support from the UK Government Centre for Connected and Automated Vehicles (CCAV) and the Midlands Future Mobility (MFM) consortium, the platform is providing digitally connected road users in the West Midlands with live, highly localised and targeted updates from road operators on lane closures, speed restrictions and traffic incidents.
Road authorities are also trialling the platform to control and ease traffic jams and make informed planning decisions using secure, anonymised and aggregated vehicle position data sent up to 10 times every second from users who have opted into the service. This capability could be extended for emergency services when responding to an incident such as someone driving the wrong way on a motorway, or for breakdown recovery organisations to assist vulnerable road users.
The platform is a leading example of how CAM Testbed UK – the UK’s world-leading test facilities for Connected and Automated Mobility (CAM) – is enabling innovation and the development of new technologies critical to the safe, mass adoption of connected and self-driving vehicles.
With the open platform at its centre, Vodafone is creating an ecosystem of connected vehicles, cyclists and pedestrians across Europe and Africa, with each one acting as the ‘eyes and ears’ of the road. This information can be used to warn each other of congested traffic, incidents and other hazards that they might be heading towards. More than 70% of all cars built in 2020 have digital telematics capabilities already, and now Vodafone is working with private and public sector organisations to extend the advantages of integrating in-vehicle connected systems within the wider connected transport ecosystem.
Transport for West Midlands (TfWM), which is part of the West Midlands Combined Authority, is leading the way in the UK with the adoption of ‘vehicle-to-everything’ technology, starting with the region’s city centres and key transport hubs including Birmingham, Coventry, and Wolverhampton.
Using Vodafone’s fast 4G and 5G network and advanced multi-access edge computing (MEC) technology built into the platform, it allows real time road information from Highways England to be displayed initially on users’ smartphones, and in the future, on in-car infotainment systems.
The platform works with Convex, Chordant’s Mobility Data Exchange facility, to enable dynamic data to be exchanged with road operators and their traffic systems and is the UK’s first live implementation of Cellular Vehicle-to-Everything (C-V2X) technology. C-V2X combines the latest mobile technologies with in-vehicle computer systems to create new mobility services for improved safety and reliability as well as allowing road operators to build ‘greener’ and more sustainable transport networks.
Mike Waters, Director of Policy, Strategy and Innovation at TfWM, said: “We are now reaching the point where connected vehicle technology is genuinely able to start making a meaningful and very powerful difference to the big issues in transport like safety and energy efficiency. The work we have done with Convex and Vodafone is moving solutions forward not just for the West Midlands, but for the whole country and really exemplifies the UK’s position of global excellence in this space.”
Luke Ibbetson, Head of Group R&D at Vodafone, commented: “It’s fantastic to see vehicle to everything mobile technology being deployed on the open road for the first time in the UK. While the system is delivered via smartphone, drivers will need to use handsfree equipment. Meanwhile we are working with the automotive industry and road operators to have the technology integrated within vehicles and transport infrastructure to make our roads safer.”
“Safety is of paramount importance to the development of systems that connect road users across mobile platforms. Running on Vodafone’s edge, Nokia analytics software will apply data insights to make roads safer, provide a better experience for users, and enhance road infrastructure management efficiency in a way that can easily be deployed across multiple geographies,” said Chris Johnson, Head of Nokia’s Global Enterprise Business.
“Road Operators are seeking to digitally interact and exchange information with vehicles and road users”, said Ash Wheeler, Senior Vice President at Chordant, “We’re delighted that, through this partnership and the services we are creating, transport authorities and vehicle manufacturers around the world will be able to test, validate and rapidly deploy standardised C-ITS services over existing cellular networks, improving road safety, reducing congestion and unlocking new driver experiences. This is also another important demonstration of how UK Government investment in the Future of Transport, through CCAV, is enabling innovation, international partnerships and solutions that will generate long term value for the UK in this space.”
Note to Editors:
Today, vehicles are no longer individual machines moving on roads, they can interact and relay information about the environment around them to improve the road user experience and increase safety. Vodafone is in talks with car manufacturers, fleet companies and haulage firms to have the platform integrated within the vehicle. Unlike most existing systems, which rely on stationary roadside infrastructure to provide a picture of road conditions, the platform uses data generated from the movement and position of the vehicle.
With operations in 21 countries and partners in 48 more around the world, Vodafone intends to use its geographical and technological scale to combine the power of in-vehicle communications systems with real-time data from road operators, other road users and car manufacturers across multiple countries. Vodafone Automotive is already providing advanced telematics to the automotive sector and developing technology to help with the switch to electric vehicles, advanced security and tracking systems, fleet analytics and management.
West Midlands trial
The overall goal of the trial in the West Midlands is to improve the experience for road users by improving road safety, offering valuable new services to drivers and providing road operators with data driven capabilities which improve efficiency and pave the way for intelligent multi-mode transport solutions. It forms part of the part of the Midlands Future Mobility initiative involving the installation of Connected and Automated Mobility (CAM) solutions. These include CCTV, weather stations, communications units and highly accurate GPS coverage to make the roads safer and allow for more predictable goods delivery and journey times.
Every day almost 4,000 people are killed globally in road traffic crashes. More than half of those killed are pedestrians, motorcyclists and cyclists. Meanwhile road transport contributes to around 20% of total global CO2 emissions. Communication technologies are a key tool in reducing the number of accidents on the road and increasing transportation efficiency by enabling cooperation between the different road users and the road infrastructure.
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