After Greater London, the English county with the largest population is the West Midlands. Its seven metropolitan boroughs include the conurbations of Birmingham, Wolverhampton, and Coventry. It is in the latter that Mobileye, an Intel Company, is collaborating with Transport for West Midlands (TfWM) on a pilot project to digitise roadside assets and infrastructure.
TfWM does not itself run any public transport services, but rather it is responsible for co-ordinating them. In fact, its strategic remit extends beyond public transportation to also include freight and private transport in the West Midlands.
The pilot with Mobileye is part of TfWM’s wider strategy to leverage new technologies across the county in order to optimise maintenance of its highway apparatus and find savings for key stakeholders such as public utilities. Further down the line, the creation of datasets will lead to valuable insights into how to develop and roll out new mobility services.
In partnership with the local authority, TfWM selected a 40-square-kilometre area around Coventry for its trial to capture and scan road infrastructure and markings.
Commenting on the partnership, Mike Waters, Director of Policy, Strategy and Innovation, Transport for West Midlands, said: “Transport for West Midlands are working with Mobileye to assess potential for their automated data collection technology to support the collation and digitiation of large and complex real-time datasets relating to highway apparatus, restrictions and regulations. This process is crucial to enhancing the efficient operation of our highway network and increasing the effectiveness of our workforce and maintenance regimes.
“The easy availability of open, accurate and continually updated data sources is key to future proofing our highway network and transport systems. It will be a key element in accommodating transport solutions of the near future, notably increased automation and a greater focus on the adoption of flexible, sustainable micro-mobility travel options.”
The methodology chosen for the pilot involved retrofitting a single Mobileye camera onto local authority waste and recycling trucks operational in the pilot area. The camera silently scans the road ahead as Coventry’s refuse collectors go about their regular business, serving their community. This makes the Mobileye solution not only cost-effective but also unintrusive.
Roadside infrastructure and markings are scanned continuously as the vehicles travel around, which over time builds up an increasingly accurate and complete picture. Single scans are a snapshot; if you miss a road marking or a street sign (e.g., due to trees, or road works) the data is inaccurate until the next scan, which could be months or even years later. Continuous scanning from a vehicle that by its very nature drives through every street on a weekly or twice-weekly basis builds a much more accurate and complete picture over time.
This is what is happening. In a six-month proof of concept with six vehicles, Mobileye has so far “mapped” the following assets:
- 1,615 road signs
- 801 traffic lights
- 1,722 streetlights
Going forward, as the data is evaluated, the digital map would be actionable in several operational areas:
- The data would improve both reactive and planned maintenance programmes, reducing time spent on site finding the asset
- The data gives insight into the condition of the assets, allowing local authorities to optimise investment plans
- Long-term data on performance/replacement timings would lead to an overall optimisation of performance.
Although driver and public safety is not strictly within the remit of the digitisation project, it is one of the immediate benefits of using Mobileye’s collision avoidance technology.
The system can be leveraged in all kinds of other ways: it is able to give insights on traffic flows or near-miss incidents or identify hazards on the road. In addition, it can record and score traffic flows.
It is early days but collaborations such as the TfWM/Mobileye pilot have the transformative potential to significantly cut maintenance costs as well as steer transport policy and innovation for decades to come.