Four 'smart corridor' transport trials are planned for Northampton next year, helping pave the way for driverless cars, greater use of technology-based solutions and responsive real-time networks.
The trials - taking place across Kingsthorpe Road, Kettering Road, Bedford Road and Weedon Road in the town - will make extensive use of technology and data including journey time sensors, pollution detectors, real time messaging and mobile alerts.
Currently there is a £5m cash pot, including £3.5m from the Local Growth Fund, to support investments in the projects, including on street technology such as V2X communications that would support driverless cars.
It will also see radical innovations such as tidal flow systems, which allow traffic to travel in either direction based on conditions and controlled by variable message signs. These have been scarcely used in Britain and on very limited terms.
Director of environment development and transport at Northamptonshire CC, Tony Ciaburro, told Transport Network: ‘These are firm proposals. It’s not a pie in the sky type concept. This country needs to move to truly exploit technology rather than be left behind.
‘We need to exploit next generation technology and solutions. The potential is limitless. And at the moment we are not reflecting how people really live, work and interact. One thing I want to do is hold a hackathon, so we have people from outside, the younger generations, helping provide solutions.’
Mr Ciaburro said modern trends in the user experience demanded a much more integrated approach and one that sees the local transport authority more as an ‘enabler’ rather than a 'controller'.
‘It’s increasingly about collaborating with the public to help them to do what they want,’ he said.
The smart corridor schemes also involve plans for physical infrastructure such as bus priority sections on roads and an expansion of cycle hire and car club bays together with communication schemes such as real time alerts on signs, message boards and to people’s phones or car computers.
There would also be softer methods to promote modal shift to more sustainable transport through initiatives such as workplace challenges.
A brochure on the scheme states: ‘Those who commit to a change for a period of time will automatically be rewarded with as relevant prize based on their travel behaviour, facilitated through contact payment cards and smartcards.
‘For example, if someone has committed to using the bus for their travel all month, they could automatically be given a week’s free travel.’
There will also be an emphasis on collaboration with partners, as well as leveraging investment from outside sources including new housing and commercial developments.