West Midlands 5G awards £2.4 million to develop transport trials

28th September 2020 Christopher Carey

West Midlands 5G (WM5G) and Transport for West Midlands (TfWM) have announced funding for seven UK-based firms to develop 5G-enabled road and rail transport trials, sharing £2.4 million (US$3 million) of support.

The projects are scheduled to run until the end of 2021 with each trialling and testing their service in the West Midlands region.

In 2018, WM5G was selected under the government’s Urban Connected Communities Programme to develop a large-scale 5G pilot across the region, with hubs in Birmingham, Coventry and Wolverhampton.

Speaking to Cities Today, Chris Holmes, Programme Director, WM5G said: “Across the West Midlands, there are quite big challenges around congestion. Pre-Covid this cost over £400 million (US$514 million) a year through lost time and travel.

“Transport-wise, there’s now quite a big desire to look at how 5G can help to either mitigate or improve some of these issues.”

The winning projects are:

Capacity Manager – Blacc, Immense, Elgin, University of Warwick, and O2
An innovative traffic management solution in which live traffic data is transferred in real-time over 5G to a dynamic road network model. Artificial intelligence (AI) working on the data provided, combined with historic event information, will create scenarios that provide real-time insights, allowing incidents and congestion to be better managed. This should result in less congestion, with traffic flowing more freely – improving the experience of travelling around the region.

CURBS – Vortex IoT, National Express, BT/EE
Using Lidar sensors and advanced software, real-time 3D point-cloud data will be sent over 5G to provide up-to-date and detailed maps, monitoring roads and rail infrastructure. Following a successful trial, the system will provide live on-street parking information, identify the location of potholes, improve cyclist safety, reduce vehicle damage, and more.

Passenger Management – GoMedia, Wordnerds and Icomera
An AI-led system – designed to improve passenger experiences and safety – provides intelligence in interpretation of live customer feedback over 5G. Immediate problems can be resolved and a database of categorised issues will provide insights for the operator to improve services. The aim is to enhance the traveller experience by improving the products and services available to passengers across the transport system.

Predikt – AppyWay and Getmapping
A predictive parking system that uses 5G-enabled kerbside imaging to reduce the amount of time spent finding a parking space. This could reduce the estimated £373 million (US$479 million) spent each year in wasted time, fuel and emissions caused by drivers searching for a place to park. If successful, drivers will have access to highly accurate predictive availability of parking spaces, making their journeys quicker and reducing the time vehicles spend on the road.

Transport Accessibility – GoMedia and Icomera
With the help of 5G, this project aims to create a passenger service that will allow more visually impaired people to travel on public transport – currently, over 40 percent of the visually impaired are unable to make all or some of their journeys on public transport independently.

Tram Safety – Icomera, Classone Systems, DigitalRail
Using 5G to stream CCTV footage from trams, images will be analysed in real-time to detect people and objects. This will help to increase passenger safety, assist with social distancing, and identify where improvements to accessibility may be required.

Urban Tourism- You. Smart. Thing., Landmrk, Imagemakers, and Oodl
Using 5G-enabled sensors at stations and major venues combined with booking and travel information, real-time traveller demand insights for rail and road networks will be created. ‘Last mile’ routes to destinations and investigations into how to influence travellers will be explored. This will provide a transport demand model for large cultural events – ultimately enhancing the experience for those attending.

Chris Lane, Head of Transport Innovation at Transport for West Midlands, said: “We have ambitious transport plans for the region and funding competition with West Midlands 5G forms a key part of that. The outcome of these trials will make a significant difference to transport across the region and have national relevance. This news further reinforces the West Midlands’ reputation as one of the UK’s number one locations for both 5G and transport innovation.”

WM5G is a multi-million-pound programme established by the West Midlands Combined Authority (WMCA) and the UK’s Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) to develop the country’s first region-wide 5G testbed.

A second round of the funding competition for 5G-enabled rail and road trials will close on 2 December, offering an additional £2.5 million (US$3.2 million) to UK firms.

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