Highways UK | Time to address transport technology’s discourse vacuum

Article Posted on: July 13, 2017

HUK-Cover-Dan-Ruiz

Industry simply isn’t happy with the pace of roll-out and progression of new data-driven technologies but says Daniel Ruiz, chair of the Transport Technology Forum, the benefits will only be fully realised when the old and new organisations start working hand in hand.

The ‘Internet of Things’ is already a hackneyed term but there is little doubt that the levels of intelligence intrinsic within our society are greater than ever before.From the transport and mobility management perspective, this gives rise to a number of challenges. Many of the technology solutions currently in use were constructed and remain rooted in traditional infrastructure.

And although there is a bewildering array of disruptive but potentially useful new technologies already in existence, selecting which of these to use is far from straightforward.

The common aim is to achieve better optimization of existing assets and the common challenge is about making the progression from gathering data to knowledge, insight and decisions.
An issue is the large number of stakeholders all vying for opportunity and advantage. These include the automotive companies, public and private-sector transport management and service providers, academia and industry (which includes both the suppliers of “traditional” traffic management solutions and the newcomers from the ICT and consumer electronics fields).
I believe a greater level of discourse is key to achieving a clear way forward and that the benefits from the new data driven technologies will only be fully realised when myriad organisations decide to work hand in hand.
Government at the national level needs advice on rapidly evolving technology solutions; academia and industry need an appreciation of the Government’s intentions in order to provide the necessary advice and provide the appropriate goods. At all levels of network management, from national down to local, there is a need to know what peers are doing and when, in order to operate most effectively whilst achieving interoperability and economies of scale.
The Transport Technology Forum (TTF) has been set up to address this ‘discourse vacuum’. But it is far from being just a talking shop and exists to bring together four key groups – the vehicle industry, transport infrastructure and service operators, the technology industry/suppliers, and local authorities.
TTF is about capturing the business case and a strategic roadmap for technology. The business case already tells us that technology represents much better value for money than continued road-building; but those in public sector procurement need justifications for commissioning. Procurement is key.
Our greater aspiration is to accelerate the pace at which Highways England, Transport for London and other similar asset-owning client organisations are able to move forward.
Industry simply isn’t happy with the current pace of roll-out and progression. A big problem is the massive amount of risk-aversion which continues to exist. There’s a lot to be said for a ‘be safe, fail fast, learn fast’ mentality and we want to embed more of this kind of approach in the UK’s collective transport thinking.
And to get there we need to be talking about the best routes forward.
Daniel Ruiz is chair of the Transport Technology Forum and managing director of Dynniq UK and Ireland.
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