ITS Irelands’ seminar on Transport Strategy & Trends

blog pic 1TSSG attends Transport Infrastructure Ireland group seminar which was presented by Steve Kanowsky, Chief Economist & General Manager of Strategic Policy, Department of Transport and Main Roads, Queensland.

Mr Kanowsky opened the talk with the eyebrow raising revelation that Queensland have actually begun building a mock-up of a town complete with traffic systems within which they will trial test some 500+ Automated Vehicles. In Queensland they look at transport plans in a 30 year context and are heavily invested in the future of ITS. With an annual transport budget just south of 7 billion Australian dollars! (33% of total state budget), Queensland can afford to be selective in the areas of transport it invests in. There is a strong involvement at University level into AV (Automated Vehicle) research and planning and one area under the spotlight yet again is Big Data. Capture and especially real time analysis of transport data is crucial to being able to act on problems as they occur such as traffic accidents and congestion. Incidentally the good folk in Queensland prefer to label these transport headaches a little more positively as …Journey Time Reliability! (JTR)

Interesting points on road safety were discussed and it transpires that an increase of even 1 meter in central divide on main roads results in a significant drop in serious accident outcome. The cost of this central divide increase has been shown to be sufficiently less that the cost to the health system of the alternative. Freight is restricted to one lane, similar to our bus/taxi lane system in Dublin. Interestingly the policing of this has been farmed out to technology partners and freight over 4.5 tons is monitored and tracked by GPS and if any driver moves even slightly off of an allowed network they are punished immediately with the issuing of severe fines.

A lot of work is also being done to identify networks where there is questionable JTR. The main focus of this work is on forming Smart City Plan networks. What you have here is a lot of devices carried by commuters in all modes of transport which can be tracked and the resultant signals recorded on a grid of the area. The idea is that within a smart city network you have lots of places that you can visibly identify as PAC’s or Principle Activity Centres. Within a smart city model then you should be able to access your target PAC (possibly your place of work) within a 30 minute journey from home. Any delay on this 30 minute window is classed as a JTR co-efficient, but let’s face it, most people can deal with some minor JTR when you live in a city, and a smart one at that! There is also a progressive move to incorporate mobile application technology to communicate traffic issues to the public, allowing for personal manipulation of your very own JTR, So there Hal! Control reigns supremely human, smart city or not!

MaaS (mobility as a service) is coming and will be at the core of ITS according to Mr Kanowsky. Australia see themselves as being a leading provider of MaaS in the very near future and see it being purchased much the same way as you would purchase your mobile phone services. Kanowsky also feels that the realisation of MaaS will be a needed catalyst in the move towards AV’s becoming a reality. Eventually AV’s coupled with journey sharing will be the ultimate answer in ITS.

Concerns were raised at the talk about the possibility of an explosion in the popularity of AV’s and how this would affect ITS and in particular its focus on public transport solutions as an integral player. It is important here to realise that AV’s are only one part of the ITS picture and are seen as a necessary part in a fully functional ITS, incorporating AV’s and public transport options in a MaaS solution. With that in mind if people start moving towards a pro AV stance as a single solution, then the full power of MaaS through public transport inclusion will need to be re-communicated on a vigorous scale. This will probably come about along the lines of Tax breaks, work place travel subsidies, education and possibly even regulation. Speaking of regulation, there may come a time when the legacy fleet of manual vehicles will be given weekend only slots on the road for the die hards amongst us. It is possible to imagine just as now there is a mock town for testing AV’s, there will come a day where the same town will play host to vehicles people can once again ‘play’ at driving for old time sake.

Remote attendance at work is another way being explored more and more nowadays to cut down on congestion, sorry, journey time reliability! And of course for all you conservationists out there we cannot discount the added bonus of a carbon footprint reduction. Personally I think for remote workplace attendance it will probably work best if companies agree to stagger the ‘remote’ days so there is an even distribution of traffic reduction across the working week.

So what happens if you don’t like the sound of your transport being provided like your phone services? What if you simply don’t want ‘Hal’ whisking you off to work in a driverless pod while drones issue hefty fines to the lorry driver next to your vehicle because they’ve been spotted/tracked crossing the white line by a nanometre? In reality, the advent of AV’s is coming and it’s coming soon. MaaS is coming and it too, is coming soon. These two together will make travel better in the long run and before long the 2.5 in the back seat will have to tweet a cloud service to ask that time old question. Are we nearly there yet?                                  

The Answer, Yes we are.