West Midlands 5G, Transport for West Midlands unveil ‘revolutionary’ transport projects

After funding award to develop new products and services, comms and travel consortiums will launch 5G-enabled road and rail transport trials across the West Midlands

After a successful funding competition, West Midlands 5G (WM5G), the organisation that delivered the UK’s first region-wide 5G testbed, is investing £2.4m in seven UK-based consortiums to support the development of new products and services to transform transport across the region.

WM5G is a multimillion-pound programme that the West Midlands Combined Authority (WMCA) and the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) set up to develop the testbed. DCMS expects to invest over £20m in this programme, in addition to substantial West Midlands public sector and private investment from October 2018 to March 2022.

WM5G set up the UK’s first region-wide 5G testbed in March 2020 to benefit more than 2,000 businesses in the region. A consortium that it headed – including companies such as Telefónica UK (O2), Deloitte, Wayra and Digital Catapult – built three 5G application accelerators in Birmingham, Wolverhampton and Coventry under the 5PRING brand.

The new funding competition’s first phase aims to deliver innovation projects which, if successful, will provide a use case to improve road and rail operational efficiency, provide better-connected transport, or improve passenger experiences. The projects are scheduled to run until the end of 2021, with many set to complete before that deadline. Each project will include trialling and testing of their innovative service in the West Midlands.

“We have been delighted with the response to this first competition, which was heavily oversubscribed, and are really pleased to be awarding the funding to projects that we truly believe – when proven – will transform transport within the region,” said Chris Holmes, programme director – transport at WM5G. “We look forward to seeing what our new partners deliver and will support them in the realisation of real and tangible benefits.”

The winning projects from the first round include Capacity Manager from a team comprising Blacc, Immense, Elgin, the University of Warwick and O2. This comprises a traffic management system in which live traffic data is transferred in real time over 5G to a dynamic road network model. Artificial intelligence working on the data provided, combined with historic event information, is used to create scenarios that provide real-time insights, enabling incidents and congestion to be managed better.

The consortium says that when proven, this will result in less congestion, with traffic flowing more freely – improving the experience of travelling around the region for work or leisure.

Using Lidar sensors and advanced software, the CURBS project from Vortex IoT, National Express and BT/EE will send real-time 3D point-cloud data over 5G to provide up-to-date and detailed maps, monitoring roads and rail infrastructure. Following a successful trial, the system will provide live on-street parking information, identify the location of potholes, improve cyclist safety and reduce vehicle damage, among other use cases.

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Passenger Management is an AI-led system from GoMedia, Wordnerds and Icomera designed to improve passenger experiences and safety by providing intelligence in interpretation of live customer feedback over 5G. Immediate problems can be resolved and a database of categorised issues will provide insights for the operator to improve services. The aim is to enhance the traveller experience by improving the products and services available to passengers across the transport system.

Aiming to reduce the estimated £373m spent each year in wasted time, fuel and emissions caused by drivers searching for a place to park, Predikt, from AppyWay and Getmapping, is a predictive parking system that uses 5G-enabled kerbside imaging to reduce the amount of time spent finding a parking space. If successful, drivers will have access to highly accurate predictive availability of parking spaces, making their journeys quicker and reducing the time vehicles spend on the road.

“We have ambitious transport plans for the region and the funding competition with West Midlands 5G forms a key part of that,” said Chris Lane, head of transport innovation at Transport for West Midlands (TfWM). “The outcome of these trials will make a significant difference to transport across the region and will have national relevance. This news further reinforces the West Midlands’ reputation as one of the UK’s number one locations for both 5G and transport innovation.”

A second round of the funding competition for 5G-enabled road and rail trials closes on 2 December 2020 at 11am. A share of up to an additional £2.5m is available to UK registered businesses. For more information on WM5G or the second round of the funding competition, visit WM5G or apply-for-innovation-funding.service.gov.uk/competition/717/overview

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