Integrating services and intelligent, real-time routing at the heart of Esoterix System’s transport solutions
Posted on 17/08/2018
KTN’s Complex Systems team has worked with a wide range of companies to help them combine systems and signpost them to Innovate UK funding. Some of the most notable examples have been highlighted in a series of case studies which will be published over the next ten days.
Complex Systems covers the key application areas of space, robotics and autonomous systems, data analytics and defence and security, with a focus on engineering best practice for systems, intelligent applications and large-scale infrastructure. KTN’s interests are in the scalability, adaptability, resilience and security of these systems.
The Mobility On-Demand Laboratory Environment (MODLE) project team are developing, testing, and refining new transport services that combine the convenience of point-to-point journeys with the environmental and cost benefits of shared use. The services are rigorously planned using sophisticated technology to model and simulate demand and then intelligently routed in real-time.
Transport plays a major role throughout the economy, generating substantial employment and contributing to trade, as well as providing access to education, leisure, healthcare, rural towns and urban areas. A study from INRIX and the Centre for Economics and Business Research predicts that the annual cost of congestion in the UK will rise 63% by 2030, to £21 billion. To maintain its capability and capacity for growth, the UK needs to improve its transport systems and overcome the traffic congestion that saturates the transport networks.
Liz Davidson, Chief Marketing Officer at Esoterix Systems Ltd, and project partner for MODLE comments:
“Our three main objectives are to address transport poverty and improve access to work, and help reduce congestion and pollution. We are also exploring new business models to ensure that services are competitively priced for passengers and financially sustainable in the long-term. We want to ensure that we’re delivering a service at a price comparable to the equivalent petrol cost.”
MODLE was one of the winning bids of the Innovate UK competition Integrated Transport Local Authority Solutions, to look at the experimental development of new transport solutions in cities. Integrated systems need to include all modes of transport and concentrate on improving the movement of people and goods more efficiently, integrating innovation with technology such as information services, tracking management systems, smart ticketing, financial models and data communications. Through its local authorities, the UK is well placed to take an innovative approach to connecting transport systems and networks at a regional level.
Esoterix rigourously develop routes by analysing vast amounts of data. Part of this analysis includes the MODLE Simulation Platform which gives new, dynamic insights into where people are moving from, how and why at a much finer granularity than traditional traffic simulations. The data includes mobile networks, passengers, local authorities, transport operators and employers.
Developing new mobility services – the MODLE Simulation Platform
“This technology enables the virtual comparison of existing travel modes with proposed services. Alongside the simulation we have a human behaviour model which helps us understand the potential appeal of new services before putting vehicles on the road. Then, learning from actual is fed back into the model, so that it is continually improving.”
Addressing transport poverty
There are currently two experiments underway for the MODLE project team. The first experiment, SevernNet Buzz, running in Avonmouth, focuses on addressing transport poverty and improving access to work. Growth in the Avonmouth and Severnside Enterprise Area is threatened by difficulties in attracting workers. There is no public transport around the area, but with fewer people learning to drive year-on-year employers cannot rely on people driving to work.
Buzz responds to passenger usage and adjusts its route over time. The service follows schedules but also responds to real-time travel information, like train delays. The Buzz service is paid for by the businesses that want attract and retain staff. Liz says:
“The coverage of the local bus networks is shrinking as local authorities can’t afford to support the less profitable routes. Transport poverty means that people don’t have the means to access jobs, health and education opportunities. We all benefit from addressing these problems and information technology gives us the perfect opportunity to explore at new ways of doing things.”
Tackling congestion and pollution
The second experiment, My First Mile, addresses the need to tackle congestion and pollution. Bristol has an obvious hub and spoke model of local transport, which sees buses going in and out of the centre, and very few orbital services, which is why so many people drive if they can.
My First Mile is a ‘short hop service’ that will take people from near to home to the main bus routes, where people can then get to major employers on public transport more easily. User apps will enable passengers to plan journeys, pay, and see when services are coming. Passengers pay a single, integrated price across operators which is a ground-breaking move forward. The service provides a predictable, scheduled journey in the morning and a flexible journey home in the evening. Liz concludes:
“These are both promising experiments. The next step is to replicate these service models in other cities to address similar problems. It hasn’t been without challenges though. Funding a start-up is often difficult but Innovate UK has helped enormously by enabling us to find matched funding in stages. Engagement with the local authorities can also be tough because they are overstretched as it is. But we’re getting there.”
The MODLE consortium includes Bristol City Council, First West England, Transport Systems Catapult and The University of West England’s Centre for Transport and Society. It is led by Esoterix Systems.