Building starts at intelligent transport systems test centre

Developers of 'intelligent transport systems' (ITS) will be able to test them in a controlled environment when a custom-built circuit in Warwickshire is complete.

Construction began this week on the first phase of the InnovITS-Advance centre at Nuneaton, a circuit representing the typical European environment. It is due to open in spring 2010, with customers drawn from the global automotive and telecommunications industries as well as highways operators and authorities.

The facility is a collaboration between InnovITS the automotive and transport research organisations MIRA and TRL, with £6.5 million funding from Advantage West Midlands, and is located within the boundaries of MIRA's headquarters.

ITS technologies cut across industrial and governmental boundaries, requiring parallel product development effort in the areas of telecommunications networks, roadside infrastructure, traffic management and on-board vehicle electronics monitoring and control systems. The new centre will eventually comprise a number of circuits that can replicate a wide range of traffic scenarios – including, for example, complex urban multi-lane intersections and bi-directional flows – under various traffic control systems and strategies.

Each of the test circuits of will be comprehensively instrumented with numerous telecommunications networks including GSM, GPRS, WiFi, and monitoring systems including accurate position monitoring technologies. The centre's customers will be able to control these telecommunications and electronic monitoring systems in order to test telematics-based innovations in operating environments that might be encountered in real-world use.

The first phase of development is a 'city' circuit with a network of roads, traffic islands, roundabouts and controlled intersections, enabling engineers to replicate the challenges of almost any European urban environment.

Speaking at the groundbreaking ceremony, InnovITS CEO Phil Pettitt said: "Intelligent transportation systems offer significant potential to improve the quality of life and sustainability of road transportation throughout the world. To date a major obstacle to the realisation of products based on these technologies has been the lack of a dedicated, safe, secure and comprehensively equipped testing infrastructure in which crucial development efforts can take place. The creation of innovITS – ADVANCE aims to unlock the benefits of a safer, more fuel-efficient, and sustainable future for transportation."

Despite the significant size of InnovITS-Advance (the 'city' circuit alone will be based on a footprint of approximately 120,000 square metres) the entire facility will be infill development within the existing envelope of the MIRA site.

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