In the first of a series of Q+A sessions with the Greenwave project’s Consortium partners, we speak to Andy Radford, Principal Infrastructure Development Officer at Birmingham City Council – the home of the Greenwave trial – to find out more about the Council’s involvement, the challenges it hopes to overcome and how the project could develop from here…
What is your role?
As the Principal Infrastructure Delivery Officer, I support the Council’s transport research and innovation opportunities. There are a wide range of technology projects that require management and input, as well as Traffic and Policy Managers who require my support in getting the information they need. I take care of both of those elements and keep projects moving.
What is the Council’s role in the Greenwave project and why get involved?
We’re providing access to the traffic systems, which allows the project to be a ‘live trial’ – a real test environment.
We were keen to get involved for tech and environmental reasons. Greenwave is great because it’s allowing us to dip our toe in the transport technology water and helping us deliver on our own environmental objectives. By connecting vehicles to data and delivering on traffic management targets, we hope to be able to support better air quality in the city centre.
Generally, there is a lack of activities that the Council can support to directly reduce emissions, but Greenwave is one that allows us to be proactive without substantial intervention or resource. It’s a project that is relatively small and cheap in principle, but that has the potential to have a significant impact, not only in the heart of Birmingham, but across the West Midlands and beyond.
What key challenges do you hope it will overcome?
We hope it can play a fundamental role in addressing air quality concerns – a big priority both locally and nationally. It will also help to improve freight transport. Freight is typically considered a private sector problem, but there is a political interest for councils as they continue their mission to achieve air quality and emission targets. We want to promote the mainstream side of freight.
For me, the most interesting part of this project is how it proactively attempts to change driver behaviour. The gamification element – incorporated via the smartphone app – aims to incentivise drivers, encouraging them to think about their driver behaviour and how their vehicles impact on the environment. In doing this, it prompts them to consider how they can control their fuel with a view to reducing emissions and improving air quality.
In terms of insight, we’re still in the early stages of the trial but the project is prompting us to make more use out of the traffic data we have, share it more widely and think about it differently. I’ve found it surprising how much data is available for manipulation and it’s been great to tap into this. Data that has never been used, shared or analysed before is now being utilised across a small Consortium for the benefit of cities, suppliers and drivers.
What feedback have you had on the project?
We’ve presented the project quite a few times now and there’s significant interest in what we’re doing. Through events, we’ve been able to spark interest and ‘open the lid’ on an innovative approach to transport management which has made the industry stand and listen. Stakeholders are now contemplating where and why a new approach to fuel can have a positive impact on the environment.
While others may have already tested the idea, Greenwave takes it to a new level and provides a modern approach with the app development.
How do you see the project developing from here?
It’s important to remember that while the project has the potential to support real change, we’re still in a trial phase and its development hinges on the results achieved. So, it’s not without a little risk and there’s always a chance that something may not work.
Currently, the app is in the final stages of development and is close to launch. Preliminary work has already been done with the Amey highways maintenance drivers (Amey is another Consortium partner) to investigate its adoption and how we can communicate the project effectively.
Longer term, and if successful, the technology could be rolled out on a much wider scale.
Real-time traffic signal data is also applicable across a number of different areas, and there are lots of ways it can add value – for example, delivering insight to traffic modellers, using it for different sets of signals and sharing it with academic institutions for research purposes.
Describe the project in three words:
It has to be: challenging, innovative and interesting – and we’re pleased to be part of a project with such positive attributes!