What if transport users could plan their journey based on accurate, up-to-date information – then use a single app to select, book and pay? What if they could enjoy a seamless, reliable, and safe journey using multiple modes of transport or by booking a shared or automated service?
Imagine planners and transport operators knowing how the city is moving now and what might happen soon, so they can make better decisions to reduce congestion and disruption – creating a better experience for users, lowering emissions and pollution, improving safety and decreasing operating costs for road operators.
We talked with WSP’s experts to explore emerging opportunities including cooperative intelligent transport systems (C-ITS), connected automated vehicles (CAVs) and ‘mobility as a service’ (MaaS) – and the next steps for de-risking and accelerating this exciting vision of future mobility.
A new transport future: trends and opportunities
As the tools available to transport users and operators advance, and new technologies evolve, the possibilities for future mobility become more exciting and more connected.
Many drivers are already familiar with automated features such as intelligent cruise control, lane keep assist, and assisted emergency braking. So, it’s not a huge leap to imagine a future of greater automation. Highly or fully automated vehicles have enormous potential to reduce congestion, improve road safety, and greatly enhance mobility independence.
A highly automated vehicle is certainly smart, but it also needs to operate in a smart world. Our wider transport ecosystem requires a holistic view of intelligent transport systems (ITS), advanced data analytics, real-time communication and predictive modelling to improve traffic flow and safety for all users. Bringing these worlds of automation and connectivity together, we get ‘connected automated vehicles’ (CAVs) that can communicate with infrastructure, vehicles and other road users to achieve mobility outcomes with Connected Cooperative Automated Mobility.
Another major trend will be towards MaaS. MaaS offers transport users options for mode, time and route of travel via a single app with timetabling, booking, payment and subscription options. By offering multimodal alternatives, simplifying travel and revealing new options for solving the ‘last mile’ challenge, MaaS can encourage a shift away from private cars to more sustainable modes.
Guided by real-time and predictive data, drivers and transport users can choose the optimal timing, route and mode of their trip based on better information about conditions, congestion or delays – smoothing out some of the peaks and pressure points on our roads and public transport. Responsive or ‘on demand’ public transport becomes possible too, providing new standards of service and convenience for users.
These future transport trends can make our cities and towns better, safer and cleaner places to live.
They also contribute to greater productivity, reduced carbon emissions, a thriving economy, and better returns on investment from infrastructure and maintenance projects.
Collaboration will be critical
Integrating these mobility solutions into our cities, and unlocking their full potential, will require coordination and collaboration across state and federal governments, and between Australian and international manufacturers and regulators.
“Governments have a role in ensuring that we have the security systems, data standards, and points of connection for CAVs so we can get the benefits of CAVs as they’re available,” says Scott Benjamin, WSP’s Technical Director of Intelligent Transport Systems. “We have worked with the Commonwealth Government on a set of principles based on European ETSI standards to prepare a pathway for getting more of these services and ultimately vehicles with these capabilities imported into Australia. In turn, this will drive more competition and spur the industry forward.”
Shivaani Polley, WSP’s Senior Principal ITS Engineer, concurs, saying “When we put roadside infrastructure in place, we need a standardised framework for deployment so that the work is done once and in a way that’s consistent across our nation.”
Building consumer trust and uptake
Advances in smart, connected and automated vehicles and infrastructure mean data. Lots of it. Ensuring the security and integrity of data and protecting users’ privacy will be key for building trust in new transport alternatives.
“There are great benefits for network management – whether for roads or public transport – such as understanding people’s travel behaviour, location or vehicle position as they move through a network,” says Scott. “However, we need to be careful, respectful and transparent about how this is done. This means complying with privacy and security laws and requirements and ensuring that people understand what data is being shared and why.”
Australians will also need to be confident in the convenience and reliability of MaaS and other transport apps to be prepared to lessen their reliance on private vehicles.
Shivaani says, “With MaaS, there’s still work after the app and technology are in place – such as ensuring reliability and availability of inventory for that critical last mile travel. We have to attract, retain and delight transport consumers with their MaaS experience.”
Community engagement will be important for educating potential users about the new technologies and eliciting their needs and concerns, including issues such as cost, accessibility and the needs of particular groups or geographies.
What about safety?
Another critical factor will be building public confidence in the safety of automated vehicles and connected systems.
WSP has been involved in cutting-edge projects around Australia, including the largest pilot project and on-road trial of C-ITS, as part of the Cooperative and Automated Vehicle Initiative (CAVI). This project in Ipswich, Queensland, validated the impacts and benefits of C-ITS use cases and demonstrated the evolving technologies to the public.
David Alderson, Associate ITS Engineer and Team Lead for Queensland, WSP, notes that this trial showed that the introduction of C-ITS could reduce serious accidents and fatalities by 20%.
“When you consider that the road fatality rate hasn’t reduced for at least the last five years, a 20% improvement is really substantial,” says David.
Scott says that the perception and actual safety of our roads, footpaths, cycle paths and other aspects of the built environment “will continue to impact how people take up active transport and new alternative transport options.” Any deployment in connectivity and automation must consider active and public transport users first.
“When you look at the statistics, automated vehicles are actually pretty safe,” he continues, “but there’s no room for doubt. There is an expectation that this transition will be well considered. This is why we also need off-road test beds and controlled on-road trials with a safety driver in the vehicle. We test over many millions of kilometres to be sure that these transport solutions are safe.”
Role of digital systems in transport infrastructure
Integration of current systems with future technology requires careful planning, deep knowledge of operations, awareness of emerging technology and deep technical knowledge in interpreting evolving standards. Strong engineering judgement is required to optimise investment and yield practical outcomes.
“To support our clients in preparing for CAVs our teams are working to understand the limitations of legacy systems and creating pathways to more real-time and trusted solutions,” says Nigel Nielsen, Digital Transport Systems Lead, WSP.
David adds, “Data readiness is critical. Information needs to be available, scalable, real-time, accurate, and reliable to meet the needs of future transport systems.” A high volume of data is expected, which will require robust validation, supported by secure and resilient telecommunications networks.
Cyber security is already essential across the transport sector. It will become increasingly critical as our dependence on connected digital technologies increases. People will need to trust that new technologies are reliable and secure, and that the supporting physical infrastructure is safe. Digital ecosystems must keep evolving to support CAVs and enable quicker deployment of beneficial use cases.
Informing and enabling transport infrastructure
For CAVs to become more widespread and C-ITS to expand, Australia’s roads and other transport infrastructure will need to be in appropriate condition. Our vast and diverse landscape presents unique challenges for deploying and maintaining the complex connected infrastructure necessary to support new modes of transport. Significant upgrades will be needed, such as installing smart sensors, communication networks, and new road markings.
Digital twins can play an important role; helping transport planners, designers and operators make informed decisions to ensure that our transport infrastructure is ready for the digital-enabled transport revolution. These digital models make it easier to manage complex data and design, and deliver projects and monitor the condition of assets. The twin can reveal the current state and predict the future needs of our roads, railways or other assets, including where and when investments in new builds, upgrades or maintenance are needed and will deliver the greatest benefits.
The twin can also show how vehicles and users use physical infrastructure now and how this may change, potentially revealing opportunities to encourage users to change their travel behaviours. Digital twins are already feeding into simulations using virtual and augmented reality to help communities better understand the impacts of new projects. Learn more and try out WSP’s Digital Twin Guide here.
Trialling and deploying intelligent future transport
WSP has provided our expertise as foundation partners in the Australian Integrated Multimodal EcoSystem (AIMES) in Victoria to trial C-ITS in a busy, urban setting. In Perth, our teams have helped create a safer, smarter and more efficient freeway, improving travel times and network resilience. WSP has also provided technical expertise for risk and safety assurance of a trial exploring potential uses for automated vehicle technology, which led to a report on the economics of CAVs.
Through these Australian projects, and many others around the world, WSP’s experts are helping industry, government and the community bridge the gap between what is and what could be.
The potential for technology to transform transport and deliver better user journeys is limited only by our imaginations. But, as with any new technology, we must maximise these benefits without compromising safety, privacy or equity. WSP is navigating these complexities, which span traditionally separate disciplines, and testing technologies so that they can be rolled out responsibly.
We’re working to make all our transport projects Future Ready™ for connected, safe and sustainable living, driven by digital.