Imagine your current daily commute to work. Now, replace the image of gridlock, stress and lost productivity, with one of smoothly flowing traffic, alerts to help you avoid traffic jams and directions guiding you to a parking space close to your office.
Commuters and business-owners alike can appreciate the value of reliable, predictable and safe transport. The impact of congestion and constrained capacity on operational efficiency cannot be underestimated. DWF's 2017 report linking infrastructure development and economic prosperity, Driving Britain's Growth, found that 65% of respondents felt UK transport infrastructure inhibits international trade; with 59% agreeing that it limits their ability to expand their business. Business leaders we spoke to quantified the profits they lost due to the state of the transport network at 6-10%.
Many would like to see new roads being built in order to ease congestion. However, space and budget constraints make this difficult to achieve. Further, we need a full infrastructure upgrade instead of a short-term fix.
One potential solution to traffic build-up is to reduce the number of cars on the roads. However, technology could provide a smarter, more cost-effective and lasting solution to the problem. Intelligent Transport Systems (ITS) are innovative applications which allow road-users to make better-informed choices using real-time data analysis. ITS can ensure faster travel for commuters and logistics providers, which can prevent productivity loss to business and boost international trade opportunities.
One area in which ITS can provide better outcomes for business is real-time parking intelligence. Technology can offer users access to a digital network with live occupancy reporting, allowing city workers to secure a space whilst on the go. Integrating software into cars, however, is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to ITS. The bigger picture is smart infrastructure - a layered communication system which allows vehicles to communicate with each other and with the road network.
An example of this is the 'managed motorway' - Transport Scotland's Forth Replacement Crossing project. Drivers on this smart motorway will need no specialist skills to use the system, but are simply alerted to messages displayed by overhead gantries. These messages are programmed from a traffic control centre, and allow for variable mandatory speed limits to be applied in response to traffic build-up and other incidents. Helping drivers and traffic analysts communicate in this way could vastly improve business and commuter connectivity.
With 61% of our respondents anticipating their infrastructure-related losses to increase in the next five years, boosting the capacity and efficiency of the UK's transport networks needs to be a top priority for all levels of Government. Approaches range from the use financial incentives such as road tolls, congestion charges and tax breaks for smart cars through to regulation making it mandatory for all cars to have integrated smart systems to record and share traffic data. However, the burden to adopt ITS cannot all fall on drivers and manufacturers, national and local government need to work collaboratively with the private sector to create a streamlined transport network, utilising data capture and traffic management technologies. This will demand significant investment, a well thought out strategy and a commitment to making smart infrastructure across the UK a reality.
This information is intended as a general discussion surrounding the topics covered and is for guidance purposes only. It does not constitute legal advice and should not be regarded as a substitute for taking legal advice. DWF is not responsible for any activity undertaken based on this information.