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A promising connection

Date: 13 December 2018   |   Author: Sean Keywood

A new study by Ford shows how connected vehicles could lead to a brighter and smarter future on our roads. Sean Keywood reports.

Analysing data from connected vehicles could deliver benefits including reducing the cost of traffic congestion for businesses and improving road safety.

The claim has been made by Ford, which has spent the past year recording a total of one million kilometres of journeys in and around London by a trial fleet.

Each vehicle in the study was equipped with a plug-in device that recorded journey data and then sent it to the cloud for analysis. 

Data scientists from Ford's Global Data Insight and Analytics team were then able to analyse the information through an interactive dashboard.

In its new 'Ford City Data Report' the manufacturer sets out to demonstrate the power of the resulting data, with one of the most promising areas that of traffic retiming.

This is potentially lucrative for businesses, with Ford highlighting how London rush hour traffic costs companies and individuals £9.5 billion a year.

Its analysis found that by setting out two hours earlier, a test fleet of vehicles could save up to 30 hours in a typical week, benefiting the drivers of those vehicles and also other road users, who would encounter less traffic.

The report states: "There may be trade-offs for consumers or business owners - deliveries arriving earlier or later in the day, for example. 

"But understanding the potential benefits and efficiencies of time-shifting could be helpful to encourage businesses and individuals to embrace the concept."

Another promising area of the report concerns identifying potential accident blackspots.

By tracking driving data such as speed, incidents of heavy braking and occasions when hazard warning lights were turned on, Ford says it was able to identify 'near misses' that could be cross-referenced against existing accident reports to build an algorithm to determine the likelihood of where future incidents might occur.

It says this could help city planners redesign streets to make them safer, and also help drivers to potentially avoid risky areas at certain times.

Another area the study looked at was electric vehicle (EV) charging
point placement. It found that only 1% of stops made by vehicles were within 100m of an existing charging point, with only a quarter of those for the 30 minutes-plus needed for a useful charge.

The report states that by locating charging points closer to places where vehicles stop and park the most, the usability of EVs could be greatly improved, with the data suggesting as few as 20 new strategically located rapid charging points across Greater London would help significantly.

The study also addressed the relative advantages of car travel and public transport, with the data showing that short journeys in the centre and to the east of London were generally quicker to drive, but for some areas on the outskirts that are well connected to central London, public transport would be faster.

Finally, the study looked at the effects of the school summer holiday break on traffic, and found that while roads around schools were clearly and expectedly quieter, other roads, such as the M25 near Heathrow Airport and the A13 and A406 North Circular roads, were slower. 

Ford says it acknowledges that projects of this kind are dependent on the willingness of drivers to share data, but that it believes being able to demonstrate clear benefits will make people more open to supporting them.

Sarah-Jayne Williams, director of Ford Smart Mobility in Europe, said, "The Ford City Data Report is a showcase of what we at Ford can do with connected vehicle data, smart infrastructure and our analytical capabilities. 

"We are calling on cities to work with us to collectively solve problems so that they can become even better places to live and work in."