New technology may speed up Oxford’s road repairs and improve the life of cyclists

Exciting new technology could be deployed in future years in Oxford to identify crumbling road surfaces more quickly, plan better to protect and promote cycling and help people to dodge areas experiencing air pollution problems.

These are some of the exciting opportunities being pursued for Oxfordshire’s road users by the county council’s Smart City initiative.

As an education and high-tech innovation hub, Oxford is uniquely placed to develop new technologies for the benefit of its residents.

Smart City exploits these strengths, with Oxfordshire County Council working in partnership with entrepreneurs and academics to tackle the county’s traffic challenges. It’s part of the council’s commitment to provide services that enhance the quality of life for communities and protect the local environment.

The Smart City projects are grant supported – for example, from central government – which means Oxfordshire County Council is playing a leading role in many of the innovative schemes without requiring significant funding from local taxpayers.

The county council’s head of innovation, Llewellyn Morgan, is speaking at the Smart Places of the Future conference, in London, today (Tuesday 22 January). He’ll be sharing a vision of Oxford as a high-tech beacon of urban transport innovation.

One of the ground-breaking projects involves exploiting the information-gathering capabilities of Connected and Autonomous Vehicles (CAVs); how they can help with traffic movement and make road maintenance more efficient.

Llewellyn explains: “Experimental CAV cars are fitted with special surveying equipment that measures distance to particular targets using pulsed laser light and a sensor.

“Working with Oxbotica, an autonomous vehicle software company, the team is testing this equipment, mapping Oxford’s road surfaces.

“Could the data be used quickly and accurately to identify where tarmac is breaking up? If so, it could help our highway maintenance teams to fix potholes and plan resurfacing work before further deterioration.

“A ‘prevention before cure’ approach has potential to save council tax payers thousands of pounds a year.”

Similar technology has been applied to two-wheels. The Smart Cycling Detection project aims to improve cyclist safety, gathering real-time information on their locations within traffic flows, such as at busy junctions. The data is then used to protect cyclists by warning other road users that they’re there.

Data showing how many cyclists are using roads at certain times will help council planners consider the best places to introduce dedicated cycling lanes, traffic lights and other traffic management measures.

Sensors on cycles and vehicles could capture air pollution levels, with real-time digital maps offering alternative walking and cycling routes to dodge the smog.

Route and timing information, showing how much quicker cycling and walking can be – and the benefits to health and well-being – have potential to encourage more people to leave their cars at home.

Oxfordshire County Councillor Cabinet Member for the Environment, Yvonne Constance, said: “These exciting projects are turning Oxford into a ‘living laboratory’ where we test technology, discover and develop innovative congestion solutions, and promote healthy transport options.

“By working closely with industry and academics, we can help shape practical uses for ingenious high-tech innovations. It’s a win-win-win; for Oxfordshire’s residents, for local businesses and university researchers.”

For further information about Oxford Smart City, visit the website: www.oxfordsmartcity.uk