Decarbonising transportation infrastructure through connectivity
Author: Produced in association with Transportation Professional magazine, for a special issue focusing on the climate change agenda, published in March 2020.
Development of connected, digital transport infrastructure promises not only to improve mobility for people but could help tackle the climate challenge too.
Advanced technologies being deployed on pilot schemes in the Midlands and Kent are helping champions of future low carbon mobility, including Costain, to gain a better understanding of how infrastructure and vehicles can communicate with each other to help shape not just a safer transportation future but a more sustainable one.
Fully connected infrastructure where modern vehicles and fixed assets can ‘talk’ to one another is essential to achieving ‘net zero’ carbon emissions from transport, says the company’s solutions director, John Batterbee. Connectivity will not only facilitate the integration of electric vehicles and reduce pollution due to stop-start traffic, it will enable the most effective design of a low carbon, multimodal transport system that can easily be navigated by people seeking a seamless, low carbon journey.
Developments in connected and automated mobility go hand in hand with the push for greener motoring. “Over the next few years we’ll see scale up of ultra-low emission vehicles. Electric vehicles, for example, have large batteries, which means there is flexibility on how and when they are recharged,” says John. Connectivity is essential for enabling them to be recharged when there is a plentiful supply of low carbon electricity and avoid excess strains on the grid.”
Systems that allow vehicles and infrastructure to communicate are currently being tested on several heavily trafficked routes in the Midlands as part of the Midlands Future Mobility testbed. This builds on the success of the Intelligent Transport System (ITS) Project of the year in 2019 , the A2/M2 in north Kent, where Costain worked with Highways England, the Department for Transport, Transport for London and Kent County Council to deliver one of the UK’s first connected vehicle corridors on a live road. Costain’s work on each project involves integrating technologies developed by several global technology providers.
“Connected and automated technology is not only tackling congestion but is also helping to improve local air quality as less braking means fewer small particles are released into the atmosphere,” says John. “The data that comes from vehicle and roadside sensors, such as cameras, and smart analytics can predict if a traffic jam is likely to occur and provide a richer picture of what is ahead. This helps drivers to optimise their speed and reduces the chance of a build-up of vehicles on the road, thus reducing the emissions associated with traffic jams.”
Adaptive cruise control technology that Costain is helping to enhance with intelligent road technology as part of an innovation project funded by Highways England, Connected Digital Roads , will enable connected vehicles to respond to traffic information provided directly to them by the highway operator. These features are already available on premium models and will increasingly be mandated in all new vehicles. “To maximise the carbon reducing benefits of ‘intelligent’ and ‘intuitive’ mobility products and services entering the market at pace, it’s important that infrastructure-side technology becomes as ‘intelligent’ as vehicle-side technology. Our role is to integrate the requirements of infrastructure owners and leading automotive vehicle manufacturers and deliver solutions that address both so that the pace can be maintained,” adds John.
John also points out that it is important for infrastructure operators, automotive companies and mobility services firms to come together now to understand how a connected, multi-modal transport system can be designed to make transport carbon neutral, in order to help the UK meet its carbon reduction commitments. “Digital connectivity enables you to provide live information during a journey, such as where the park and ride is and when the next bus is due. This will make low carbon choices much more straightforward and so help further reduce congestion, local air pollution and carbon emissions.”
Working with government, regulators and clients to enable the uptake of low carbon technologies such as connected and automated vehicles has been part of Costain’s journey to be a clean growth leader and is a key component to the Group’s climate change action plan launched on 24 February 2020.