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Research Helps Keep Traffic Flowing

Team Seeks Low-Carbon Supply Chain

3 September 2015

Costain is using its research and development fund to provide research into advanced computer modelling to provide innovative solutions to the challenges faced by its blue-chip customers.

Robert Chisholm, a PhD student in the University of Sheffield’s Computer Science Department, is studying Agent Based Modelling (ABM), a computational technique used to simulate complex systems.

It works by breaking down the system into a collection of autonomous agents and objects such as pedestrians, cars and environmental structures. The agent behaviour is then programmed to match known rules, behaviours and data, and variations are added to better match the demographic being modelled. The resulting model can be used to test how changes in individual behaviours can affect the system as a whole.

Costain hopes that Robert’s work will advance the simulation capability to help designers and clients better handle scenarios where systems are under pressure or shocked through abnormal events such as accidents.

Said Costain’s Dan Rennison, Technical Lead for Robert Chisholm: “This technology is usually used to model pedestrian flow through large-scale infrastructure assets such as stations. We are looking at more innovative solutions to our customers’ challenges in the highways sector along with real-time capabilities.”

Now nine months into the three-year project, Robert has already developed the software needed to carry out these solutions and will be performing software validation exercises this summer on Costain’s A556 Knutsford to Bowdon Improvements and M1 J28 – 31 Smart Motorway highways contracts.

Said Robert: “I’ll be working with the Costain teams to gain access to their knowledge, expertise and data so that I can set up an initial model and see how it performs. The aim is to see how we can expand the current simulation capability in order to improve on existing traffic management systems. This could enable us to adjust systems so that if there’s, for example, an accident or motorway maintenance, the traffic can continue to flow without hold ups.”

When this summer’s initial trials are complete, Robert will begin to carry out larger trials on other Costain contracts.



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