Vehicles across the UK are increasingly both receiving and sending a huge amount of data. With the technology to interact both with other vehicles around them and with the infrastructure on the road, there is a major opportunity to harness and use the data they provide to improve our transport network. This would benefit not just motorists, but other road users too, such as cyclists and pedestrians.
The information from connected vehicles can help road operators understand the state of their assets, allowing for predictive maintenance. It can help improve safety by identifying potentially dangerous junctions such as, for example, highlighting areas where an unusually high number of drivers have been aggressively braking. Or it could be used to make more effective use of the road network, by setting traffic signals better, thereby reducing congestion.
Getting hold of the data is where the challenge comes in. Often, there is little commercial reason for the organisations who hold the data to release it, meaning it is not being used to its full extent.
Take eCall as an example. Since 2018, most new cars and vans have been fitted with the eCall SOS system that allows you to contact the emergency services from your vehicle, as per EU regulations. eCall has already had a big impact on improving safety on roads, but the metadata it provides, in terms of where the calls have taken place and the circumstances, is only available to the emergency services. If road operators were able to access this data too, it would open up a wide range of opportunities to produce new safety services, whether for road users, the emergency services, local and national transport authorities or the Government.
Paying for all connected vehicle data to be accessed, and the infrastructure to ensure it is provided in real time, is the challenge. And it is one which Government can help solve. Government funded data from connected vehicles purchased centrally, rather than piecemeal local contracts, would allow innovative businesses, including many ITS UK members, to provide new platforms that turn these datasets into useable and useful tools. This could bring tangible benefits for road safety, decarbonisation and efficiency, whilst also reducing costs to the public purse through economy of scale, with one procurement, not hundreds.
We’ve seen the success of the Government taking the lead in Bus Open Data Service and the work being done on the National Parking Platform, to provide a standardised source for parking data. A similar approach for connected vehicle services could yield real benefits for the safety and efficiency of our road network, whilst giving UK businesses a competitive edge from which to export these services abroad.
This blog follows the ITS UK Connected Vehicles Forum session on “Who pays for Connected Vehicle Services” on 10 January.