What to do about traffic jams?

What to do about traffic jams?

In INRIX we are fortunate enough to have access to vast amounts of traffic data, which is used by our INRIX Research team to identify trends, insights and impacts of road congestion.

One recent study by INRIX Research, which was covered extensively in the UK press by the likes of BBC News and The Times, revealed that there were 1.35 million traffic jams in the past year on the UK’s major roads, costing drivers an estimated £9 billion. The causes of the five worst traffic jams ranged from fuel spills to broken down lorries.

November 2016 was the worst month in terms of volume with over 169,000 traffic jams on the UK’s major roads – 50% worse than average. However, traffic jams across the month of April proved the most severe, with the research revealing length of delays were 24% worse than average. The year’s worst traffic jam occurred on 4th August 2017 on the M5 Northbound by Junction 20. Traffic tailed back 35 miles at the peak, and the jam lasted 15 hours.

So, whilst queuing is considered a national pastime for many of us Brits, nothing is more frustrating than sitting in traffic. Jams can be caused by all kinds of road incidents but data from the INRIX Incident Platform shows that fuel spillages, emergency repairs and broken down lorries contributed to the worst congestion over the past year.

This leads to question what can be done?

Much has already been accomplished and we have seen great improvements in incident detection and speed of response and recovery, however this has often been offset by the sheer increase in the volume of traffic.

We believe the next big improvement in reducing traffic jams will be through better use of data.

Today, detailed high-quality information and data is being collected for each road incident, such as the location, the cause, how quickly congestion built up, which vehicle types were involved, weather conditions, how it is affecting surrounding roads, when the incident was cleared and how long it took for the road to return to normal.

This rich dataset is continually being enhanced with increasing numbers of vehicles and connected devices like smartphones collecting more types of data more often.

One challenge is what to do with all this information and how to make sense of it. This could lead to better understanding on different types of incidents, their impact and which response measures minimises disruption and delays.

Another challenge is that technology is moving at such a pace that by the time a technology system has been specified and been procured it is out of date.

One solution to both of these problems is to take an agile approach; buying in data-as-a-service that can be easily analysed and use cloud-based analytics tools to quickly find the nuggets of value needed to make a difference.

One thing is for sure, increasingly we will have access to more and more valuable data. However, what is uncertain is whether this data will be used to fulfil is potential in supporting better road journeys.

Adrian Ulisse is INRIX’s Director of Sales & Business Development – Public Sector. He will be running a demo of the INRIX Roadway Analytics on demand traffic tools in the Dynniq Dome from 09.40-10.15 on 8 November. INRIX is a sponsor of the Intelligent Infrastructure Hub and the Highways UK event app.

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Adrian Ulisse

Adrian Ulisse – Director of Sales & Business Development – Public Sector, INRIX

Can wearable tech tell us the things we don’t often get round to asking?

Can wearable tech tell us the things we don’t often get round to asking?

Ask yourself the following!

We’ve all heard the comments such as “he hasn’t turned up” (meaning he’s there in body but not in mind), “It will do”! (too tired to complete the task) and “Change of plan” (equipment or resources not available). Fatigue can have significant effects on employees who maintain the real-time operation of UK infrastructure. Statistics suggest the industry can improve health and safety procedures and systems to ensure we stop causing harm to our teams.

But how many of us routinely ask our teams if they are fit to complete their activities? Do we know enough about our employees to understand changes that could affect their wellbeing prior to starting their shift? At the start of each day, do you consider the drive time to work and the potential drowsiness caused by driving a warm vehicle after being on a cold site all day? Do we monitor the wellbeing of employees during the day – their heartrate, posture, trips and falls on site? Do we challenge our teams to be honest when it comes to understanding that both mental and physical health are important to us all?

The industry owes a duty of care to ensure our site teams are monitored, supported and reviewed more closely so when conditions deteriorate appropriate actions can be taken. Such monitoring enables managers to remove people from stressful or risky situations and can mean a lapse of concentration is dealt with immediately.

The start of the process is to make sure teams and employees, particularly those working alone, are both physically and mentally prepared. Technology has an important role to play in answering these questions – providing data to give business insight into both team or individual situations.

For instance, during July and August, Amey funded proof of concept trials on the use of wearable technology, developed by Fujitsu, to monitor the health of its workforce both on site and while driving to and from work.

Lone workers on the North-eastern Regional Technology Maintenance Account for Highways England were asked to take part in the short trial. By wearing a Fujitsu Vital Sensing Band, worn on the wrist effectively as a smart watch, a vital connection was enabled between employee and manager. The device provided managers with live data and information including alerts should there be an increased level of risk, enabling them to take immediate action.

The trial investigated early detection of the following:

* Avoiding Heat Stroke: Heat stress is evaluated based on more than temperature and humidity, the environmental index and physical state of each wearer of the device are also taken into account and an alert is displayed if predetermined levels are reached.

* Immediate indication of a trip or fall: The movement of tumbling or falling can be determined by a combination of changes in atmospheric pressure and acceleration.

* Prevent falling asleep at the wheel: The Fujitsu drowsiness detector monitors the driver’s biorhythms. This gauges levels of fatigue and pre-alerts the driver via a smartphone interface and alert vibrations when they are becoming drowsy.

Monitoring the well-being of employees continuously means managers are immediately aware if an employee becomes drowsy or has had a trip or fall while on site or any other remote location. If there is no response when contacting the employee, the manager or supervisor can take immediate action.

We must all ensure our teams are safe at the start and end of shift and they go home fit and healthy after completing a day’s work.

Ask yourself – have you asked your team if they are fit for work?

Michael Kehoe is Amey’s Framework Manager – Infrastructure, Highways, Airports & Technology.

* Safety, Health and Wellbeing for Roadworkers is one of main session themes in the Safer Highways UK Conference running within this year’s Highways UK. The event on 8 November is free and open to all Highways UK visitors.

* Fujitsu will be demonstrating wearable health monitoring technology from its stand at Highways UK on 8/9 November.

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Mike Kehoe

Mike Kehoe – Framework Manager, Amey

Integrating technology solutions into an ageing infrastructure

Integrating technology solutions into an ageing infrastructure

Technology is changing the world we live in…. how many times have you heard that said recently? I don’t know about you, but I think by now we are all very aware that this is the case!

I’m interested in how people respond to technology changes: they tend either to embrace them or run for the hills. Let’s assume we are in the camp that wants to embrace this type of change. If this is the case, we are faced with a strange conundrum – it seems to be difficult to procure a technology solution and feel fully satisfied with the outcome.

Therein lies the problem though: more often than not we start with the solution itself without fully considering the outcome that we are trying to achieve. This is not too dissimilar to rushing out and buying the latest two seater sports car when the objective is to transport a family of five safely from A to B – perhaps some of us can relate to this.

I write about this light-heartedly, but it is a significant challenge for our industry. We can take the analogy further – in our situation we are often trying to drive the latest sports car down an ancient uneven cobbled road. In other words, we are trying to integrate the latest technology solutions into an ageing infrastructure and with a wide range of legacy systems. For these reasons I’m not convinced that there is such a thing as a ‘plug and play’ technology solution.

To realise the full potential of technology we need to do three things: begin by defining the outcome; consider carefully the possibilities and complexities of integrating new technology into existing infrastructure; work as one team across all disciplines.

At Costain, we find that beginning by working with our clients to define the outcome for their customers that we are trying to achieve provides an excellent focus for any technology project and is a huge help with key decisions. Secondly, we are passionate about a ‘bottom up’ approach to technology integration – in other words, we have a rich knowledge of how the end device (hardware) functions and we follow the integration from the end device back to the core systems.  Thirdly, we bring multiple skillsets together. Technology solutions don’t have to be defined by “technologists”. We bring all relevant disciplines from civil engineers, mechanical engineers, ecologists etc. and ‘technologists’ together to produce solutions that work.

Highways UK is always an excellent opportunity for industry to come together and discuss burning issues. This year Costain is delighted to be supporting the Intelligent Infrastructure Hub and very pleased to say that the competition is based entirely on client outcomes.

Several challenges have been set by various national and local authorities incuding Highways England, Birmingham City Council, Transport for the North, Transport Scotland, England’s Economic Heartland and The Air Quality Taskforce. The hub provides industry with an opportunity to propose technology solutions to these challenges, with winners chosen by each authority in a live judging session at the show. The challenges range from air quality to safety to optimising vehicle flow, so there is something for everyone to get their teeth into.

Click here for more information on the Intelligent Infrastructure Hub

James Bulleid is technology director for Costain’s infrastructure division

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James Bulleid

James Bulleid – Technology Director – Infrastructure, Costain

Technology will have a bigger impact on the highways sector than Brexit

Technology will have a bigger impact on the highways sector than Brexit

FITZ Index polled over 200 respondents, drawn from across the highways sector, to find out what they thought about a range of current issues, six months after the referendum. 42% of the respondents were from Tier 1, 2 or 3 contractors, 28% were designer consultants and 25% were clients.

These results from the heart of the industry reveal a sector confident that political change will not affect growth, and instead is readying to adapt to technological change.

Sector will need to gear for structural change as a result of technology advances

The survey asked 10 specific questions about the impact of change in the industry. One set of questions looked into how Highways clients are now specifying or trialling replacement of labour intensive activities with automation or technology, such as drone surveys, or mandating the use of BIM in design, or the use of off-site construction.

Widespread development and take-up of these type of innovations (and there are many other examples) is driving change in the conventional composition of design teams, and will have a significant impact on construction productivity.

The consequences of these changes however raises questions about how such skills in our industry will be valued and paid for, and therefore brought to the market.

We wanted to know whether respondents felt this issue was important, and they do, and that’s where this stuff starts to get more interesting.

Brexit what Brexit?

What came back was a view from 65% of respondents that there would be no change arising from the Brexit decision in the next two years at least, and over 59% believe that there would still be no real impact five years out.

In total 80% of respondents believe that the highways workload will grow in the UK in the next five years, so confidence is high in the sector currently. No surprise there maybe, given the amount of investment going on.

Non fossil fuels to trump autonomous in the short term?

One of the most striking reactions was the speed at which the survey group expected electric or other new-fuel vehicles to become mainstream. A whopping 87% of respondents expected fossil fuel vehicles to give way to electric or other alternatives over the next five to 10 years, with delivery vehicles leading the way.

But fewer were expecting autonomous vehicles to be making such a big impact, despite all of the noise around them. 67% thought the concept was currently hyped up, 22% could see potential for only delivery vehicles becoming autonomous in the next 10 years, and just 11% thought that autonomous vehicles would be in use by the general public within 10 years.

58% of respondents believe that technology impacts will be felt first by ordinary drivers through the application of digital technology at road network level, and it is hard to argue that Smart Motorways will not make an impact on the driving public once fully rolled out.

Rebalancing the sector – an appetite for change

In response to the key question about improving the way the sector works, 50% felt that there should be a rebalancing of the funding between Highways England roads and locally funded roads. 27% felt that there should be a greater focus on maintenance funding as opposed to the funding of capital projects.

Since nearly 70% of all respondents to the Index were contractors and consultants, these responses might also suggest that suppliers want to reduce their risk exposure (or maximise opportunities) between strategic and local road clients as well.

63% of respondents believe a more direct relationship between road users and payments should be developed, which is a strong vote of confidence for the ambitions of the 2017 Wolfson Prize. Roads power our economy and reach every part of the country. They are a long-term investment but could be better funded, better run and better maintained, and the findings from the Index suggests the industry not only has an appetite for change but it also recognises that it is coming.

Change is coming

The FITZ Index deliberately sought responses on issues such as composition of teams, standardised construction, autonomous vehicles, BIM and Road Pricing. Any or all of these pressures will directly influence the cost and value of work going on within the industry, and potentially lead to changes in its structure.

90% of respondents confirmed that design and construct teams will be made up differently in the near future, reflecting the skills and more efficient outcomes required as intelligent infrastructure technology becomes part of mainstream delivery solutions. 71% felt that this will necessarily drive different behaviours and improve collaboration between players on projects.

48% of respondents also believe that the supply chain could be better enabled to close the skills and resources gap if they were incentivised to do so, which in turn suggests that conventional resource-driven procurement and pricing needs to be re evaluated in roads, in favour of a more value-focused return for suppliers.

This is an interesting response and poses a challenge to straight line extrapolation of future resource need based on current supplier’s business models.

If more specialist skills are going to come to the fore as inferred by some of the responses, it follows that Tier 1 designers and constructors may seek to acquire those specialist skills, (since they will need to retain market share). That in turn creates a risk of a more consolidated and less diverse highways market, just at the time when we want to have access to more diverse skills going forward.

Final observations and thoughts

The FITZ Index responses arguably point to some fundamental issues in the sector, which will need to be addressed going forward, about how skills in our industry will be valued and paid for, and therefore brought to the market, and ultimately the degree of appetite for greater risk transfer between clients and suppliers.

The sector faces a far greater potential shakeup in areas such as procurement, contractual incentives, flexibility, innovation in the use of materials and application of processes, and in potential Tier 1 acquisition of specialist firms and skills, than it does currently from Brexit, and these pressures are starting to be felt now.

The next few years are shaping up to be a critical window for the industry. Future FITZ Index surveys will track the appetite of the industry to embrace such change, and our response to it, and inform future thinking. Polling on the 2017 Q1 FITZ Index is currently underway and will be published at the start of Q2, June 2017.

If you want to know more about the FITZ Index please email Brian Fitzpatrick

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Brian Fitzpatrick

Brian Fitzpatrick – Founder, Fitzpatrick Advisory