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  • Writer's pictureSafer Highways

Costain - A step closer to a connected digital transport future

Leveraging digital technology presents us with multiple opportunities to be more effective in delivering the government’s ambitions to build back better, greener and faster. Key to this is not just building more efficiently and safely but also optimising our existing infrastructure in a way that supports green jobs and accelerates our path to net zero.

Working with our transport clients and partners in the automotive industry, Costain is bringing the UK closer to realising the benefits of connected digital transport networks that will enhance the ability to move goods, to move people to work and work to people, and to increase the UK’s exportable green technology skills. All this without increasing the need to build more roads. Advancing the sector’s ability to connect vehicles with roads and rail will also help optimise any new roads and railway that do need to be built and provide a better blueprint for better, safer, and more sustainable future infrastructure.

Benefits of connected digital transport

The use of wireless communications and control systems which seamlessly connect vehicles to the adjacent infrastructure and traffic control centres, has many benefits including:

  • enhancing safety by reducing the delay in human or vehicle response to local conditions.

  • easing congestion and maximising capacity by enabling more vehicles to travel more closely together and offering alternative routes where necessary.

  • reducing pollution by cutting idling time and maintaining a constant speed, avoiding the need for excessive braking and acceleration.

  • reducing the potential for collisions between vehicles.

  • a more reliable journey for road users.

Collaborating across industries to evolve the technology

In 2019, Costain secured innovation funding from Highways England for the connected digital roads research and development project, a collaboration with automotive technology company AVL and SME As an exemplar project, connected digital roads has provided a successful use case for implementing an open mobility services platform (OMSP), a form of infrastructure-to-vehicle (I2V) communications platform, which makes near real-time travel information seamlessly available to connected vehicles.

Costain first created a prototype for an OMSP for the award-winning A2/M2 connected corridor project. Drawing on these learnings, Costain used its systems integration capability to build a new OMSP for the connected digital roads project. The platform was designed to share dynamic speed limit information provided by Highways England with AVL’s connected vehicle in a format which was accessible to in-vehicle travel service information providers such as Google, TomTom and Here.

The connected digital roads team successfully trialled the functionality of the communications platform in simulated and real-life off and on-road environments. The trials showed that vehicles could receive reliable and actionable information about current road conditions and safely respond in a live motorway environment to dynamic speed limits. In doing so, the trials demonstrated how the new system could be deployed to support vehicle-led or user decision making. “The solution Costain and its partners have developed can also be easily adapted to enable other connected roads initiatives on a national and regional level such as Talking Traffic initiatives in cities. Progressing CCAM is part of Costain’s commitment to being a clean growth leader and supporting the Government in meeting the 2050 net zero carbon target, as outlined in our Climate Change Action plan.” As Stuart White, senior technical advisor at Highways England, said: “The connected digital roads project was a major success and proved that not only could real-time variable speed limit information be sent directly to a connected vehicle but also that the connected vehicle’s adaptive cruise control could safely use this information to adjust the vehicle’s speed. “The feedback received from the travel information providers will greatly assist Highways England to develop our Connected Services vision – in particular, the identification of areas that need to be addressed in the short, medium and long term and improve the quality of the information and data we can provide to enable connected services.” A connected digital future Optimising the way our road network functions will mean safer, more environmentally friendly journeys which offer an enhanced customer experience. Building UK expertise in this technology will also ensure we are part of the global journey towards CCAM. This step closer to connected digital transport networks will be a key component to shaping a blueprint for a better, safer, and more sustainable future.

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