Birmingham to pilot smart travel service

Birmingham is aiming to become the first UK city to have a digital urban transport information service with a ‘mashup’ project that combines a range of real-time data on public transport scheduling, traffic congestion, and car parking availability. A mashup is a web page or application that dynamically unites data from two or more external online sources.

The ‘Intelligent Transport’ project is proposed by a consortium led by Birmingham Science City Partnership, and includes Birmingham City Council, Digital Birmingham, Coventry University Enterprises, Microsoft, Cisco, and Virtual Earth developer Shoothill. Aimed at road vehicle drivers, bus and train passengers, and pedestrians, a 12-18 month demonstrator pilot is due to be initiated in Q3/2009 along one of Birmingham's busiest commuter roads, the A38.

The Intelligent Transport network works by integrating existing disparate data feeds about travel conditions within an online application. This enables Birmingham travelers to plan journeys before setting-off, then access the details via their smartphones or PDAs to receive updates and advisories if travel conditions change. Using a mapping tool, the service would advise users on public transport entry points, such as walking routes to bus stops, using GPS links to show the way, plus bus arrival times based on data sent from the vehicle itself rather than published timetables.

Drivers could be warned of traffic jams via data relayed by vehicles further ahead in the route. They could also receive updates on car park space availability, and even use the system to reserve a space in a car park they are close to.

“There is a lot of data out there relating to travel conditions – the problem is that it is all flows to and from different sources,” says Birmingham Science City officer Phil McGrahan. “The Intelligent Transport system ‘mashes’ this existing data in a layer of virtual world mapping, to create a helpful user experience. If travelers are on a Birmingham bus that’s stuck in traffic, then the Intelligent Transport system will tell them where to get off and pursue an alternative route that will still get them to their destination without delay.”

For car drivers, the Intelligent Transport system consortium hopes that it will reduce the number of vehicle that contribute toward city-centre congestion by driving round seeking parking spaces.
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