Time to stop worrying about car sharing...

This Saturday I finally disposed my 1995 vintage Mazda Xedos 9, replaced, for my four wheel mobility, by membership of a locally supported car club.

‘Jazz’ came down in his van all the way from the Midlands to ferry the old MOT failure to it's new owner, that may seem an excessive distance from Chichester but is motivated by profit to be made, even at the bottom end of the car market from a surprising source.

From past experience Jazz was sure the reliable but rusty old wreck was headed to Africa, to be dismantled to keep a taxi running. He estimated that even with shipping costs of around £800, an overall profit of around £2000 is likely from the trade.

He says he regularly advises owners of old cars not to take any old low offer from dealers as any car could fetch at least £200 on EBay, because of that export market.


Taking the Co-Wheels car sharing service for a spin

I’d not really had reason to miss having a car since it failed it's MOT at the start of October, but I’d already joined up and received my ‘smart card’ from Co-wheels - and on a free Sunday descided to test the service, as transport for a mini-adventure including a country walk from the village of Madehurst, as suggested in Richard Williamson's Favourite West Sussex Walks

Four cars are provided in Chcihester by Co-Wheels. I had a choice of three available for my chosen time slot, the nearest 0.3 miles and just a few streets away.

Co-wheels is a Social Enterprise, working “to develop and improve access to more sustainable car use for communities all over the UK".

The local set up, partly funded by West Sussex County Council, provides a Toyota Yaris Hybrid parked in West Street, a Toyota Aygo parked in East Street, a Hyundai i30 parked in Ettrick Road and a second Hyundai i30 parked in Melbourne Road.

Co-Wheels is one of the participants in InnovateUK’s Integrated transport - In-field solutions competition, where it is working with Derbyshire Community Health Services NHS Trust and Proteo Limited to create a new vehicle management system.

On a Sunday afternoon there was no problem booking (although the booking web interface was pretty old fashioned, not as slick as I recall  last time I was a car club member in London 7 or 8 years ago with Streetcar, now absorbed into ZipCar).

Once unlocked by smart card and key retrieved from glovebox, my (for three hours) smart Hyundai i30 was smartly underway for our country tootle.

As for the driving experience the Hyundai i30 has plenty of low end pep but seemed to have a less refinement to my departed Mazda, with the diesel engine transmitting quite a lot of vibration to the steering wheel, which took a while to calm down and not be distracting.

Still, this isn't a car test report, but as fuel comes free with the booking economy counts for a lot, and emissions even more for a service sold for its sustainability credentials (Hyundai claim for the Classic and Active 1.6 CRDi Blue Drive models emitting only 97g/km of CO2).

As far as I could tell from a leisurely 24 mile drive, the car club offered close to the convenience of ownership at a fraction of the expense, and less hassle of ownership, plus you get to loosen up your hiking legs by walking 0.3 miles to home after parking, and the neighbours now can park both their cars right in front.

Nagging at the back of my mind are the potential future worries about availability, and the 'time is money' stress whenever it's not moving during a booking - along the lines of, “sorry, Mum, I better not have that final cup of tea and nice cake as my car club insusts I need to take it back to base…”

But so far, so good. Withing reason you can extend bookings en route, and with charges as low as £3.13 per hour for the Aygo, for occasional trips, perhaps it's time to stop worrying and have another cuppa.

Everybody’s talking about Driverless Cars

Driverless cars have caught the public mood, and ahead of the imminent announcement from Department for Transport naming the winners of the Introducing driverless cars to UK roads Competition, there’s been steady traffic of sometimes whacky, features speculating about when, or if, driverless cars will become a common feature on the roads.


Driverless Vehicles: from technology to policy

The issue has been the subject of discussion in both houses of Parliament, tentative moves by car makers such as Jaguar and Tesla, plus the Parliamentary Advisory Council for Transport Safety (PACTS) hosted Transport Minister Claire Perry as keynote speaker at its Driverless Vehicles: from technology to policy conference at Thatcham Research last week.

In her speech, as reported previously, the minster described how driverless technology could help improve vehicles, the work being done to test driverless cars, and announced a study into consumer attitudes and behaviours about driverless cars. She also confirmed that winning proposals for trials involving industry led, local authority partnered, driverless capability trials in urban environments hope to announce the competition winners next month.

Although the source of its information is not clear so should be considered speculative, Business Car reported that five UK local authorities put bids in for a share of the Government's £10 million fund to research autonomous vehicles on public roads from 1 January 2015, with four of the bids under consideration and three to be chosen in December.

Detailed notes from the event don’t seem publicly available, but Scott Pendry, road safety policy specialist with the Association of British Insurers, was reported to have told delegates that drivers in autonomous vehicles are likely to be held responsible for accidents if they were in a position to intervene; and that developers of autonomous vehicles must get to grips with the threat posed by computer hackers.

Presentations at this event are available to view:

  1. Opening Slide
  2. Peter Shaw, Chief Executive, Thatcham Research: Driverless Vehicle Conference
  3. Matthew Avery, Thatcham, Safety Research Director: Existing Safety Technology- is the driverless vehicle already here?
  4. Henrik Clasen, Delphi Electronics and Safety, Technical Manager Advanced Engineering Safety Europe: Active Safety Technologies; a roadmap from today
  5. Anders Eugensson, Volvo Cars: Advanced Technologies Aiming Towards Zero Fatalities
  6. Scott Pendry, Association of British Insurers (ABI), Policy Specialist- road safety: The Insurance Industry and Driverless Cars:Opportunities and Challenges
  7. Dr. Samantha Jamson, Principal Research Fellow, Institute for Transport Studies, University of Leeds: Vehicle safety technologies: the human behind the wheel
  8. Ian Yarnold, Head of International Vehicle Standards Division, Department for Transport: Government initiatives for safer vehicles- with or without drivers
  9. Conference Panel


Augmented reality vision en-route to driverless tech

Hitching on to the excitement over the issue of driverless cars Autoglass, the vehicle glass repair and replacement company released a survey suggesting UK motorists enjoy driving too much to let technology take over, for now.

The research, released this week, finds that there remains a fair distance to travel before UK motorists are persuaded of the benefits of new driving technologies. The survey, which questioned 2,000 UK drivers about their attitudes towards self-driving cars, heads-up display and voice controlled systems, reveals that the majority of motorists are not entirely won over by these technologies.

Autoglass showed that one in three (30%) motorists feel uneasy at the prospect, saying that they feel it could be dangerous. A further two thirds (67%) cite safety concerns as their main deterrent for buying a driverless car in the future and more than half (54%) say they would feel unsafe riding in one.

Fortunately the company has imagined a way to ease in enhanced driving technologies with its Autoglass 2020 vision: the future of the car windscreen - a futuristic imagining making use of technology that could be incorporated in car windscreens.

Looking to promote more technology (that, may still suffer a chip or crack or both), Autoglass see early introduction of voice control of cars; eye tracking sensors embedded in the smart windscreen; and augmented reality providing drivers with information through heads-up displays - much as suggested in early videos od the TSC supported LUTZ Pathfindfer vehicle.

Autoglass envisions nearly all cars will only become driverless in around 2050. But to show how wrong guesses about future technology can be, Ridley Scott’s Sci-Fi classic Bladerunner is considered a dystopian classic (about robotics trying to take over in the year 2019) but that vision of Los Angeles 35 year’s hence had Harrison Ford driven around by a driverless flying car but having to stop, get out and use a phone booth in order to make a call.

InnovateUK funding data now freely accessible for helping companies identify potential partners in research

For the last year or so, Technology Strategy Board, now rebranded InnovateUK, has published a database of the projects that it has been involved in funding offering limited access to and visibility to this data. Recently though, the same has started to be much more accessible as result of a collaboration with Research Councils UK.

Apart from helping in reporting for the KTN Transport Community better serve its readership by being able to accurately refer to the areas of research and companies involved, such data could be invaluable, for instance, in researching past Technology Strategy Board funding activity, following the timeline of funded areas, learning about past or current projects and for researching potential research collaborators by areas of expertise.

The Technology Strategy Board’s projects database can act as a helpful pointer but is published in such a way as it can’t be referred to externally or be found in Search. It’s also has a slow and has a somewhat unwieldy interface.

However, last December, as a result of the government’s policies on Open Data, the Research Councils UK (RCUK) launched Gateway to Research, that has recently incorporated the data from in the Technology Strategy Board’s project database - which is far more easy to use and accessible to help in your research.


Publicly funded research data are a public good

According to RCUK Common Principles on Data Policy, Publicly funded research data are a public good, produced in the public interest, which should be made openly available with as few restrictions as possible in a timely and responsible manner that does not harm intellectual property.

This web-based portal was launched last year to give businesses access to research supported across all the UK’s seven Research Councils and the Technology Strategy Board (TSB) in a single website. At that time 42,000 research projects were stated as then available to business and the public.

Gateway to Research aims to “provide a mechanism for businesses and others to source new research developments that might just lead to the commercial opportunity they are looking for - an idea for a new product, a solution to a current business problem, understanding markets, society engagement, international collaborations and more. Importantly it will enable businesses to identify potential partners in universities so they can develop and commercialise knowledge and maximise the value and impact generated from publicly funded research”.

“Gateway to Research contains information such as who, what and where the Research Councils and TSB fund, as well as details about technologies, processes, outputs, and impact.”

Minister for Intellectual Property, Lord Younger, who launched the website at the House of Commons, said “Publicly funded research should be freely available. We must build on the opportunities for businesses to connect with this research and collaborate with universities. The Gateway to Research will enable better information-sharing, and in turn lead to a greater take up of knowledge and commercialisation”.


Useful for SMEs when looking for potential research collaborators for innovation projects

Technology Strategy Board announced its involvement in the database in February this year - Your gateway to the latest innovative UK research, stating that SMEs, particularly, will find the site useful when looking for potential research collaborators for innovation projects.

David Willetts, Minister for Universities and Science said in the release that “Giving people the right to roam freely over publicly funded research will usher in a new era of academic discovery and collaboration, and will put the UK at the very forefront of open research”               

RCUK cites some case studies of companies that have benefited from release of this data.

Information from Gateway to Research (GtR) is stated as helping BAE Systems identify opportunities to engage with academics and exploit the outputs of Research Council-funded projects, while The Marine Innovation Centre (MARIC) at Plymouth University is using the database to create “intelligent connections between businesses, world-class knowledge, technologies, people and infrastructure”.


Both the InnovateUK Projects Database and InnovateUK supported projects published by Gatway to Research have so far had a lag of several months before the data is published - which is where the KTN comes in joining the story together and awareness raising about recent, current and forthcoming competitions. But for historic data, Gatway to Research is now a good place to start.

Technology Strategy Board Annual Report and Accounts shows transport receiving highest competition co-funding of thematic sectors

It is interesting to compare Technology Strategy Board's spending across its ‘thematic sectors’, as reported in its Annual Report and Accounts published on 7 August. The transport sector is shown as receiving the third highest amount of total funding and also attracting the highest amount of co-funding the 14 'themes' - behind only Healthcare and Built Environment.

However, in case one might think that total expendure is left to speak for to speak for itself for judging the relative priorities, it should be noted that its £16 million net contribution was almost identical that of the previous year.

As you can see from the slideshow below, Transport actually had the highest expenditure in the previous year but has been overtaken by Healthcare and Built Environment, but has still had quite a boost itself from co-funders.

The annual review sets out the activities and achievements of the Technology Strategy Board from 1 April 2013 to 31 March 2014, during which time 38 competitions for collaborative R&D funding, mostly focusing on specific thematic areas below.

Great progress in optimising Knowledge Transfer Networks

In their introductions to the report, first Phil Smith (Chairman) stated there had been a “surge of strategic work in Government on innovation, industry and growth”, in which Technology Strategy Board played an important part.

Then Iain Gray, Chief Executive and Accounting Officer, pointed to what he described as “great progress” made in optimising Knowledge Transfer Networks, adding that “Networking is a key part of our strategy, and we have brought 14 existing KTNs together to create a single Knowledge Transfer Network of communities and cross­-cutting activities.”


£30 million for Transport competitions and £50 for Transport Systems Catapult

The transport sector section of its annual report, Technology Strategy Board highlights its objective of helping UK industry “profit from developments that improve transport effectiveness and efficiency and that support manufacturers in developing and delivering new vehicle technologies.”

Technology Strategy Board has committed funding for the new Transport Systems Catapult of up to £50m over five years. Including private sector business and collaborative R&D projects the total funding for the centre over this period is expected to be around £150m.

For the 2013/2014 reporting period all the Catapult Centres were funded to the tune of £154.5m overall by Technology Strategy Board, in comparison to £186.3m for thematic sectors, which together with £35m of co-funding received £221.87m overall.

Transport related competitions that were highlighted were two Low Carbon Vehicles Innovation Platform compeitions, in partnership with OLEV and the EPSRC, providing nearly £9m of support to 27 business-led projects.

Also, the £10m competition, ‘Building an automotive supply chain of the future’, aims to fast-track some of the most promising ideas in low carbon transport technology, and be a feeder for the UK’s £1bn Advanced Propulsion Centre (APC).


Technology grants expenditure and accruals

There was an increase of £197.8m in technology grants expenditure to £572.1m overall.

For transport Gross grant expenditure was up to £30.779 million from £23.315 million, although net contribution from Technology Strategy Board was actually very slightly lower (£16.506 million compared to 16,874 million in 2012/2013).

A large part of the increase in grant is accounted for the contribution to Technology Strategy Board from Department for Transport having increased from £6.364 million in 2012/13 to £14.136m in 2013.

Apple partners with select car makers to offer CarPlay iPhone interface - just another hobby or Trojan horse for disruptive mobility

Apple has announced the premiere of its product for integrating iPhones within car dashboards - in effect rebranding iOS in the Car (the name announced last just June) to CarPlay.

At the Geneva International Motor Show yesterday, Apple announced partnerships Premieres with Ferrari, Mercedes-Benz and Volvo who will show products that allow iPhone users an easy way to make calls, use Maps, listen to music and access messages using voice control or a touch.


Activating car interface to for entertainment and navigation via voice control or button on the steering wheel

Users can control CarPlay from the car’s native interface or just push-and-hold the voice control button on the steering wheel to activate Siri voice control without distraction.

It was also announced that BMW Group, Ford, General Motors, Honda, Hyundai Motor Company, Jaguar Land Rover, Kia Motors, Mitsubishi Motors, Nissan Motor Company, PSA Peugeot Citroën, Subaru, Suzuki and Toyota Motor Corp. would offer the product in the future.

Ferrari, Honda, Hyundai, Jaguar, Mercedes-Benz, and Volvo were stated as offering models with CarPlay available this year - while BMW, Chevrolet, Ford, Kia, Land Rover, Mitsubishi, Opel, Peugeot Citroën, Subaru, Suzuki and Toyota brands are stated as being "committed partners".

The product will be available in Australia, Canada, France, Germany, Hong Kong, Italy, Japan, Mexico, Republic of Korea, Spain, Switzerland and UK.


Suggested opening for mobility app developers?

Interesting, the possibility of the platform being opened to developers can't be entirely ruled out in future as a very selected number third-party audio apps are included - such as Spotify and iHeartRadio.

Selling its benefits as offering a way for drivers to have a smarter, safer & fun way to Use iPhone in the Car, by necessity Apple has pared down the features of iOS to integrate with third party manufacturers.

Allowing software to run on non-consumer product hardware is not how the company usually operates, however (although no details of the hardware is described in the press release but presumably it will be Apple manufactured provided as a sealed product to the OEM).

Despite reaching agreement to effectively provide a dumb terminal for iOS applications, so long as the distraction issues are worked around, the future promise of opening up the product as a development platform remains (that could allow for disruptive mobility offerings if a manufacturer and Apple decide to offer a competitive advantage should it suit).

Presumably, gaining a toe hold with car makers and learning how best to provide a car based interface is a natural first step for Apple.

Intelligently connecting the electric car with the grid and other modes of transport

As electric vehicle manufacturers are required to introducing new concepts for driving, and mobility, to the market, a more holistical approach is merging.

Instead of selling an open road, top gear, fantasy, practicalities of how potential buyers make day to day use of their vehicles is coming to the fore, as well as how they fit into our environment and other modes fo transport. 

Nissan and Toyota, for instance, are taking a lead in thinking about how the electric car connects up with other uses of electricity in the home, while BMW (in its Flexible Mobility concept) has previewed an intention to connect, via in board or smartphone Apps, its i electric models with another modes of travel in order to complete journeys.


BMW i3 Test drive follow-up sales call

Following up my test drive of the new BMWi3 Electric in November, this morning I received the traditional CRM prompted sales call from Ian at Chandlers BMW in Portslade.

His CRM, or whatever system they use, hadn't connected with my post test drive comments directed to them visa Twitter (see below) - but I registered my feedback saying I see nothing much wrong with the car or concept but I do for the cost of (any) new car for my amount of usage.

I'd need to be making regular journeys to balance out the finance costs with the increased efficiency compared to my entirely reliable (cross-fingers) 19 year old Mazda.




A week or so before the call, I also received a letter from Uwe Dreher, BMW UK's Marketing Director, with a broacher explaining BMW's 360° ELECTRIC, which is a 'suite of products and services designed to assist BMW i owners with every aspect of going electric, such as access to another BMW or a mini for longer journeys.

BMW's ChargeNow network is said to offer access to a nationwide Pay-as-you go charging network (for an extra £20). The on board navigation systems as well as the BMW i App available on the Apple App store and Google Play store help navigate to these charging points.

Strangely for a smooth operation such as BMW, the app links don't quite seem to be joined up here.

BMW's Apps page doesn't include it's i App. Nor is it included in its Connected Drive Services & Apps page.

The i bit is rather partitioned off within the BMW i section of its site, perhaps as the company may prefer to feature its own, built-in BMW ConnectedDrive connectivity and App platform.

A handy feature Something that BMW offers for the smart phone user that built-in Apps can't is provided by the BMW i Remote App - that check's the battery and charging status remotely.


Flexible mobility

Also part of 360° ELECTRIC is BMW Access, occasional access to other BMW vehicles is provided to cater for long distance journeys.

According to my local salesman Ian, the service will be provided by Thrify Car Rental exlsuviekly using BMW vehicles and the the economies of the package will suit the BMW i owner requiring another vehicle on a regular basis, rather than the occasional hire such as for holidays out of convenient range for the i3.

The Brochure intriguingly suggests some future joined-up, or Intelligently mobile, thinking, saying, "In the future, public transportation will be available within your car for any instances you wish to link up with another mode of travel in order to complete your journey".

That will be something to keep an eye on.


The 100,000th Nissan LEAF Owner keeping appointments from Hampshire to Surrey

Nissan are keeping an eye on who buys their electric cars, last week announcing that British dentist Dr. Brett Garner as the 100,000th customer of the 100%-electric Nissan LEAF globally.

He and his wife, who run a dental practice in Fareham, picked up their new LEAF at the Martins Nissan dealership in Winchester.

“I have chosen my Nissan LEAF because I am very interested in its running costs,” Dr. Garner said.

“The cost of ownership, such as maintenance, insurance and charging also convinced my wife. She had the experience of driving 500 miles in a borrowed LEAF and the low cost was remarkable, so she was converted and insisted that we have a LEAF.”

“The Nissan LEAF", he said, "is perfect for everyday commuting, and there is no problem with charging it. It is ideal for the family as it is quiet and not tiring even on longer journeys, because there is no vibration.”

Nissan said that its LEAF, the world’s first mass-produced zero emissions vehicle, remains the best-selling EV in history with a 45% market share and a record year for sales in 2013.

Clever Charging of Electric Powered Transport - significant funding on offer for ideas to connect up solutions for future transport

TransportKTN is helping promote the currently open TSB competition Localised energy systems - a cross-sector approach, which is to invest up to £11m in a programme of collaborative research and development to stimulate innovation in localised energy systems.

Up to £9.5m is available from the Technology Strategy Board (for business-led solutions) and up to a further £1.5m is available from EPSRC to support academic partners contributing to the energy sector aspects of projects. 

Details of the competition, information day and networking events included in the Energy Efficiency section of Transport KTN's site, and we wish to draw your attention to the short notice required to register for Localised Energy Systems Competition Briefing & Consortium Building event at SS Great Britain on Thursday 30 January.

Further background and case studies will be on offer at the event next week; expect to see TSB and EPSRC highlight opportunities for businesses to develop new products, services, and solutions in and across the energy, built environment, transport and digital sectors.


Smart energy systems to UK companies will be worth £3-5bn by 2020

Citing surveys by Navigant and Bloomberg, TSB suggests that the market for smart energy systems to UK companies will be worth £3-5bn by 2020 and that the growth rate in the UK is 10% and in the EU 30%.

The scope of the competition is pretty broad, as the TSB want to encourage solutions that bring disparate buildings and energy users together to benefit from shared energy infrastructure and services.  

Projects that focus on individual technology development alone or projects that focus on energy efficiency measures for buildings or individual building management systems technologies are out of scope of the competition, as these are covered through the TSB low impact buildings programme. 


Where can transport fit into the competition?

The obvious areas where our constituency can input into the competition could be in rail or electric vehicles solutions for balancing electric vehicle demands on the grid.

With imagination, solutions may also emerge from the power supply side, as issues affecting transport and the grid become more related.


My Electric Avenue - testing an EV charge control system to balance out the charging cycles

The market for electric vehicles is growing fast in percentage terms but from a minuscule base, so predicting demand for energy use of such vehicles, with decades long lead times the norm for electricity infrastructure is a headache for both the demand and supply side.

A subsidiary of the power company SSE and Ofgem are currently testing a proposed method for mitigating the impact of concentrated charging requirements in small areas due to electric vehicles.

The My Electric Avenue is led by EA Technology and Scottish and Southern Energy Power Distribution (SSEPD). Together with other partners under the Ofgem Low Carbon Networks (LCN) funded project is testing an EV charge control system to balance out the charging cycles of EVs at times of network stress.

Seven clusters are so far taking part in ‘Technical Trials’ as announced in November 2013, in Chiswick, Marlow, South Gosforth, South Shields, Wylam, Chineham and Whiteley.

My Electric Avenue's Social Trials programme offers participants in confined localities to lease a new 100% electric Nissan LEAF at a negotiated rate for 18 months in return for the data on usage and how it pressurises neighbourhood supplies of electricity. 

EA Technology's monitoring and control technology is claimed to delay, and in some cases avoid, the need for additional electrical infrastructure - which would be costly and disruptive, as well as taking significant time - to accommodate the forecast increase demand from Electric Vehicles.

The My Electric Avenue website says there's been no other UK trials to address the issue of future network overload.

South Electric Power Distribution (SEPD), as announced this week, has also been awarded £8.3m in funding from Ofgem’s Low Carbon Network Fund for its Solent Achieving Value from Efficiency (SAVE) project.

The Solent-based project will be led by SEPD and partners at the University of Southampton, DNV GL and Wireless Maingate, focusing on new energy efficiency technologies to local domestic customers to trial in their homes, as well as incentives for making long-term changes to their energy usage behaviour.


The secret's in the Black Box

The incumbent electrical distribution companies may consider the potential for sudden increased demand from EVs a concern, but low carbon vehicles are a natural fit for the upstarts in the green energy sector. The marketing potential of bringing on board EV owners into the fold is likely to add to their appeal, that has mostly been based on appeal of the source of their supply.

It makes sense to reinforce the connection.

Indeed, Ecotricity, the largest in this sector, announced that last year that they will be launching a promotional tie-in with Volkswagen to promote renewable electricity supply to owners of Volkswagen's soon-to-be-launched e-up! city car, with orders being taken in November and the first deliveries announced for this month.

Ecotricity has also helped with EV infrastructure with its Ecotricity Electric Highway, a national network of charge points – making it easier for electric vehicle owners to make long distance journeys.

On it's website, Ecotricity also provides some details (and some teasers) about what it calls its Eco Lab... "And so we have our Eco Lab – the place where we research and develop new ideas for the production and use of Energy – in the three big sectors. Projects include the Nemesis (a wind powered supercar), Ion Horse (an electric bike) and Greenbird (a wind powered land speed attempt) - plus technology for generating electricity such as the Urbine (a vertical axis turbine) and the Snapper (a collaborative project in wave technology).

There's also something named the Black Box – which is, apparently, "a very smart idea that could change the way we use energy and the way the grid works."

The project page merely shows a graphic of a black box, and a teaser with no more detail that saying it's "a research project that has the potential to change the way we use electricity".


Disrupting the 'big six'

Ecotricity was this week named equal first supplier in the annual Which? energy company survey of consumer satisfaction.

The consumer magazine said the Gloucestershire-based firm was also one of only two energy companies to improve their score compared to last year, as consumer satisfaction across the industry plummeted and the Big Six yet again fared worse than the smaller suppliers.

The joint top spot is held (for a third year running) by another sustainable electricity supplier Good Energy, based in Chippenham.

Good Energy was founded by Juliet Davenport in 2003, originally to make a difference to climate change, but has evolved as a company to "create a blueprint...for the UK to disrupt the energy system ... by creating a marketplace that can support local generators delivering to local customers".

Disruption will be pushing against against an open door as far as consumers are concerned as Which? also said that its latest consumer satisfaction survey of energy companies is one of the lowest average scores for consumer satisfaction out of all the satisfaction surveys across its range of products and sectors it covers.


Electric Vehicles and the grid, there's a connection

With an even greater crisis in its electricity supply infrastructure, unsurprisingly perhaps, Japanese car makers are taking a lead in thinking about making best use of their customers' hard earned electrons.


Nissan Leaf - EVs as power sources for living

As the leading supplier of family sized electric cars, in 2011 Nissan described publicised its “Vehicle to Home” system, that allows Leaf owners to reverse the polarity, to supply a home with the energy stored in a Nissan LEAF’s battery.

"By charging up a Nissan LEAF at night when there is more capacity for electrical supply and then using that electricity as the daytime power source for a household, the system helps alleviate consumption of power in peak periods when demand is highest. Further, it can also be leveraged as backup power supply for emergencies."

Household power can be supplied from a Nissan LEAF lithium-ion battery by installing a proprietary PCS (Power Control System) connected to the household’s distribution board, while plugged into the Nissan LEAF DC quick charge port. Further, through the PCS, a Nissan LEAF vehicle can also be charged from the household power supply.

The image shows the EV Power Station PCS made by Nichicon Corporation
The image shows the EV Power Station PCS made by Nichicon Corporation

To use the electricity stored in the Nissan LEAF lithium-ion battery as household power it is necessary to convert the DC high-voltage electricity to 200V AC. When charging the Nissan LEAF battery it is then necessary to convert 200V AC electricity to DC high-voltage power. The PCS handles the electrical conversion and control of the amount of power supply. Nissan claims the LEAF EV lithium-ion battery has large enough capacity and reliability, enough to provide a stable power supply.


Toyota's Smart Grid vision

With the Prius, and now the Auris models, Toyota is the leading manufacturer of hybrid electric cars worldwide. Recently it announced that its FCV fuel cell vehicle that made its debut appearance at the Tokyo Motor Show in November 2013, will go on sale next year. The Toyota FCV hydrogen fuel cell hybrid shown off at the 2014 Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas this month, promoted as having the duel benefit of a zero Carbon emission maximum range of 300 miles and the possibility of powering, by itself, a normal home - and for longer than the power supply interruptions experienced due to the storms knocking out power lines in parts of the UK over Christmas.

In addition to a 300 miles range on a single fill-up of hydrogen, the FCV has a zero to 62mph time of around 10 seconds and a top speed of 100mph – in other words, it’s a regular car, except for the fact that it emits only water when driving.

Better still, said Toyota at CES, it could provide an answer to keeping the lights on when power cuts strike, as its electric motor can produce more than 100kW and, with a full tank of hydrogen fuel, could generate enough energy to power a regular home for a week.

The company said that engineers are currently researching an external power supply device that could be used with the car to provide a safe and simple domestic connection.

Toyota has also developed a concept it calls the Smart Grid as "wider use of environment-friendly, next generation vehicles is essential for the realization of a low-carbon society, but on the other hand, proper control of the infrastructure associated with power demand of vehicle recharging is also necessary."

What is the Toyota Smart Center?

Toyota's vision for control of the car charging infrastructure is one built around smart IT systems that considers the car as one aspect of the consumer's lifestyle, encompassing smart use of all uses of energy in the home, that is also a part of a larger community of similarly equipped smart homes. Its Smart Center concept therefore links homes, vehicles, electric power companies and users to enable integrated control of energy consumption.

The system also takes account Home Energy Management System (HEMS) that, they predict, will commonly control home electricity supply/demand, the electricity supplied by the power company, as well as the electricity generated by the houses, thus making external control possible.
Toyota said the system "collates information transmitted from a household-linked PHV or EV regarding remaining vehicle battery charge, household power consumption information transmitted by the HEMS, weather forecast data and charge-rate information for specific time segments from the power company. Thereby coordinating vehicle recharging and household energy consumption with an aim to minimise CO2 emissions and reduce electricity costs."
"With a smart phone, users will be able to remotely monitor and adjust home power usage, control the air conditioning and hot water supply."

A smart house, as Toyota envision it, is also expected to have the capability of efficiently controlling generated solar energy and power consumption making it ideal for vehicle power supply and management.

Will smart metering lead to smarter grids?

So, it's foreseeable that a smart mix of technologies are likely to be required to mitigate predicted demand stresses on the UK's power infrastructure due to electric vehicles and other increased demands.

But what if we could turn the problem around, from thinking of battery powered vehicles being necessarily a drain on demand into an opportunity to enhance the resilience of the grid?

Could the electric vehicle offer win-win scenarios for consumers as well as electricity suppliers?

Steven Harris - architect and entrepreneur - is promoting such imaginative solutions, through his company Energence, as well as blogging on the issue for Energy Saving Trust.

Steven was Technical Director of the architectural practice ZEDfactory, which built the multi-award winning Zero Carbon Development BedZED in 2000 and a contributing author of ‘The ZED book’. He was also a Senior Lecturer in Environment and Energy at the University of East London School of Architecture.

He and his wife live in a zero-carbon family house they designed and built themselves.

Energence offers smart metering for monitoring the output of domestic and commercial solar photo-voltaic installations, critical for selling electricity back to energy companies under the Government's Feed in Tarrif (FIT). But Steven's vision is enable trading of excess electricity, and not necessarily just from, strictly, renewable local generation.

The FIT scheme is designed encourage the growth of the renewable energy supply industry, but the mechanisms are almost entirely financial and crudely implemented technically.

In fact the FIT, somewhat bizarrely, pays for the amount of electricity generated regardless of how much is exported to the grid. So it could be said the FIT systems encourages unnecessary usage of this energy, as it's free to use for the producer. Steven's suggestion is to instead extract more value from local generation by, instead of unnecessarily usage, to use it is charging batteries, which in the car could be used for travel, but alternatively could, if the right smart meter were commercialised, be sold (exported to the grid) at a premium price at times of peak demand.

This may at first glance seem an abuse of the FIT system, but what is proposed is strictly a commercial relationship between consumer and electricity supplier, outside the FIT scheme.

A consumer/producer could, potentially, charge form whatever source so long as it is cheap enough during an off-peak period; stores the energy efficiently enough; and exports or sells it back to the grid at a premium.

It would all depend on the marginal profit on offer, after energy losses are factored in.

But the effect could be the consumer wins by making a marginal profit off their car battery and the power companies win by having a more resilient network, with greater reserves at peak times, and perhaps save the cost of building another Dinorwig.

The problem with the idea is that it's currently impossible. Not because of a technical barrier but because there's no business case in the UK to encourage it, since no mechanism for exporting "non-renewable" sourced electricity is offered.

According to Steven, "I see such a market, if it could be set up, as functioning as a 'load balancing' for the supply network."

Google might be thinking of doing something having just bought Nest for $3.2BN

"There's a lot going on this area. The Swiss company Tritec sells a solar power storage solutions as 'the next big step towards an independent energy supply' but they don't market their products in the UK."

"Others are wondering what Google might be thinking of doing something having just bought Nest (the smart home energy regulating company) for $3.2BN."

"I can see such a domestic power export system being managed by a smart phone app - perhaps and extension of energy management apps as offered by companies like Tigo Energy."


Investments in smart grid infrastructure in the next decade expected to reach $274.9billion

If and when smart metering becomes commonplace and the consequences accepted, such a market could follow as a natural add-on feature.

According to a blog post on smart metering by Gary Hartley for the Energy Saving More than two thirds of those polled in a recent Accenture study were convinced of the benefits of smart grids, coupled with smart meters in homes and businesses will exceed all industry expectations in terms of customer service, reliability, and the ability to fix problems.

A separate study of emerging markets suggests that 45 countries, including India and China, are to invest $274.9billion in smart grid infrastructure in the next decade – and outperforming developed countries along the way. An "astonishing 523 million smart meters are projected to be installed in these nations by 2023. Certainly some food for thought – and hefty competition – for Europe and America".


"Me and my clever home: an everyday story of the future"

Perhaps more in a spirit of Grand Designs than everyday consumer plug-in solution, Steven Harris's personal vision of a smart home in his Energy Saving Trust blog, starts from the position, "I’m so bored with the term ‘Smart home’ – I’d much rather my home were clever!"

"It would communicate with whoever I traded energy with, telling them how much I bought and sold and when. It would keep track of my energy accounts ledger, recording how much I sold the energy for, and what I bought it in for."

"My energy storage could be a set of second-use (or, as I think they call it, pre-loved) electric vehicle (EV) batteries. Let me explain why this is such a good idea."

"The trouble with EV batteries is that they cost so much (£30,000, for goodness sake!), and their practical life in an EV is only four years or so (gulp!). This means that they have to be leased to drivers rather than sold outright, and even the leasing cost is high."

When an EV battery starts getting old, it may operate at 80% of its useful storage capacity, and may become slightly absentminded in reporting its stored power. While this is a problem in an EV, as it could get you stuck on the roadside, in a non-critical job where all it’s doing is squirreling away some cheap-rate electricity, it would be fine. Being non-critical would also allow the battery management software to protect the health of the battery rather than prioritising range and amenity, as it needs to do in an EV. Installed in a house, the batteries might last many more years."

"That’s what I call clever!"


The Localised Energy Systems competition process

The Localised Energy Systems - A cross-Sector Approach competition represents a fantastic opportunity for businesses to develop new products, services, and solutions in and across the energy, built environment, transport and digital sectors,

Funding will mainly be for industrial research projects in which a business partner will generally attract up to 50% public funding for their project costs (60% for SMEs).  Projects that include cross-sector working will be considered favourably.  Expected projects to range in size from total costs of £200k to £2m, although projects outside this range may be considered.

This is a two-stage competition that opens for applicants on 20 January 2014. The deadline for registration is at noon on 12 March 2014 and the deadline for expressions of interest is at noon on 19 March 2014

A briefing event for potential applicants will be held in Bristol - at the SS Great Britain - on Thursday 30 January 2014

To receive more information about the application process for this competition please complete TSB's online form.

A more detailed briefing can be seen on TSB's Localised energy systems - a cross-sector approach competition page.

Consumers to rethink priorities in 2014, Ford trend report reveals - or happiness might not be the smell of a new car

If the television period drama series Mad Men is an accurate guide to the great American car manufacturer, what they're most scared about is what people think about them.

Currently, according to Ford's Futuring and Trends department, consumers are reassessing their relationships with new technology, balancing a tension between fear of missing out and the joy of disconnecting.

Ford’s second annual trend report indentifies (among several) a trend toward how people manage their time, reevaluating priorities such as health, community and the environment.

So, given that at the conclusion of the latest series ace advertiser Don Draper  (decades ago - or really 'now'?) albeit reluctantly joined "a culture of reflection" - a revival of the Mustang might confirm his conviction of having nothing to do with car brands. Or not if he can help it... which he can't.

Still, Ford say, "the marketplace is inundated with disruptive technology, such that even dramatic innovations are now viewed as commonplace" but, having it both ways, on the other hand "consumers are increasingly drawn to the way things were, driving demand for nostalgia-based products and services."

Ford's collection of ten micro trends may offer some insight into consumer dynamics across the globe in 2014 and beyond. Ford hopes you will spot "your own tensions and find your own spin on each trend."

"Here’s to being mindful of the changes ahead, and to persevering to make the best of them."


Ten trends for 2014
Ford’s 10 trends expected to influence consumers and brands in the coming year include:

  1. Innovation’s Quiet Riot: Fast-paced and disruptive innovation is becoming increasingly institutionalised and ubiquitous – fundamentally changing the way consumers work, play and communicate;
  2. Old School: Consumers are romanticising how things used to be, finding comfort and connection in products, brands and experiences that evoke nostalgia;
  3. Meaningful vs. the Middle Man: Seeking more intimate connections with retailers and service providers, consumers are hunting for stories of identity and meaning in their products and services;
  4. Statusphere: Across the globe, consumers are broadening the ways they display their wealth – sometimes it screams, sometimes it whispers – upending traditional expressions of status and influence;
  5. Vying for Validation: In a world of hyper-self-expression, chronic public journaling and other forms of digital expression, consumers are creating a public self that may need validation even more than their authentic self;
  6. Fear of Missing Out/Joy of Missing Out: A tug of war is emerging as the traditional FOMO is challenged by the JOMO. On one end, consumers are persevering to take advantage of everything at their disposal. On the other, they are mindful of the need to focus on, and enjoy, what matters most;
  7. Micro Moments: With so much information at our fingertips, downtime has given way to filling every moment with bite-sized chunks of information, education and entertainment – seemingly packing our lives with productivity. (Factoid: 79% of Londoners check the web during journeys);
  8. Myth of Multitasking: In an increasingly screen-saturated, multitasking modern world, more and more evidence is emerging to suggest that when we do everything at once, we sacrifice the quality – and often safety – of each thing we do. (Ford offers as help its MyKey safety feature and other technologies to combat digital overload. MyKey’s Do Not Disturb feature inhibits text messages and phone conversations from occurring while the driver is in motion. Ford is also researching a Digital Workload Estimator that blocks out technology when traffic conditions and health readings determine that outside interference would increase driver stress levels);
  9. Female Frontier: Profiles of women have reached new prominence; demographic shifts are changing household dynamics and definitions. Together, women and men will redefine roles and responsibilities in 2014;
  10. Sustainability Blues: The world has been fixated on going green, and now the attention is shifting beyond recycling and eco-chic living to a growing concern for the power and preciousness of the planet’s water.

The Ford 2014 Trend Report.

DfT road traffic volume data shows continuing flatline growth overall, less traffic in town but more on the motorway network

19 November 2013 - Continuing a consistent, and unheralded, no growth trend for traffic volumes, the latest Department for Transport (DfT) estimates of road traffic volume by vehicle type and road class in Great Britain for Quarter 3 (July to September) 2013 shows a slight rise in motor vehicle traffic (in terms of total vehicle miles) in Great Britain in July to September 2013 compared to the same quarter in 2012 - explained by bad weather last year rather than any sustained growth.

One quarter doesn't signify a great amount of course; and the 2.3% overall increase to 77.0 billion vehicle miles in the latest quarter is hardly noticeable in a flatline trend since 2007.

Indeed, and again this is just comparing two quarters, car traffic is actually 0.1% lower that 10 years ago at 60.8 billion miles.

The DfT Statistical Release highlights, "Total motor vehicle traffic has grown by 20 per cent over the last twenty years" but that all happened on from 1993 to 2007.

Some figures that DfT pick out do, are perhaps revealing.

It notes that Light Goods Vehicle traffic has increased by almost 70% since 1993, to which "the increase in popularity of online shopping, for both food and non-food items is likely to have contributed".

Also of note, is that an increase in motorway traffic almost exactly mirrors a decline in urban traffic volumes.

HGV traffic is the category of traffic with the greatest percentage decline in ten years 9.9%, with a noticeable dip in 2008 - which could be explained by economic activity but the miles travelled compared to cars is less significant and banking crisis of 2008 does not explain that cars have shows no growth since two years prior to that inflexion point for HGVs.


The British traveller also making fewer journeys

The data in the DfT quarterly are provisional estimates for road traffic in Great Britain between July and September (Quarter 3) 2013. Quarterly estimates are provisional until they have been constrained by the final annual estimates each year. Annual estimates for 2013 are due to be published in June 2014.

The estimates are based on traffic data collected continuously from a national network of around 200 Automatic Traffic Counters (ATCs). The ATCs also record some of the physical properties of passing vehicles which are used to classify traffic by vehicle type.

DfT also compiles an annual National Transport Survey (NTS) data for which is collected via face-to-face interviews with people in their homes and a seven-day travel diary, allowing travel patterns to be linked with individual characteristics. The NTS covers travel by people in all age groups, including children.

The latest figures published this July 2013 for 2012 show the number of average trips made per person has fallen to levels not seen since the 1970s.

The Great British Traveller - as measured in the survey - is also travelling 4% fewer miles per year and is spending 8 hours less per year travelling since 1995 to 1997.

In 2012, the average distance travelled was 6,691 miles which is 49% higher than in 1972/73, but 4% lower than in 1995/97. Average trip length was 7 miles.

Social, domestic and pleasure predominates for the reason for making each trip. Commuting makes up a mere 15% of all trips according to the survey.


A history of inflated traffic growth forecasts?

Alongside the June Government spending review committing to a "trebling" of previously planned spending on roads, the Department for Transport proposed spending plans in it's report to Parliament Action for Roads - A network for the 21st century. This was justified on predictions that by 2040 traffic on strategic roads will have grown by 46%, based upon central estimates of population growth, economic growth and the decline in the cost of motoring.

Traffic growth may well be more dependent on future oil price, which may be harder to predict than economic growth (and the DfT forecast is very optimistic on its scenarios for price variability for oil).

So these Government forecasts are not inevitable. Indeed, Campaign for Better Transport claims that DfT's Road Transport Forecasts have been too high for more than 20 years, and the new forecasts published in July 2013 are therefore questionable.

BMW i3 Test Drive - Are you ready to become electric?

BMW i3 Range Extender18 November 2013

Having signed up for my nearest launch event, Chandler's of Brighton invited me to test drive the new BMW i3 on Saturday at it's Portslade showroom.

Not that's there's the remotest chance I'm going to be buying one.

As to whether BMW purists would approve of an electric BMW - well, why not (and as for myself, I've owned a BMW 3 series a long time ago, albeit not one that ever could get past an MOT).

On the road we certainly did attract attention on the streets and by-ass of Hove and Portslate. A  VW Golf even tried to undertake me on the A27 sliproad!

Marketed as particularly continental vision of a 'super-urban' vehicle, the car definitely lives up to BMW performance in terms of acceleration, at least from urban speeds. On the road, the higher driving position than I'm used to, and light steering, makes it feel much the same to drive to me as a Nissan Leaf (although I've only driven one of those on a test track).

The otherwise very informed salesmen did suggest the range extender version that I drove, with its carbon fibre and other light weighting innovations, would be much sprightlier than the much lighter than the Leaf - but according to Wikipedia there's much less in it than he suggested - the i3 weighing in at 1,315 kg (1,195kg electric only model) compared to 1,493kg (2013 model) for the Leaf.

The version I drove was the Range extender - which has a 647 cc 2-cylinder petrol engine plus 9 litre tank at the back, suppling power when required only indirectly by charging the battery via a generator, bringing the otherwise 100 mile range to about 180 miles, classing this version of the i3 as a plug-in hybrid. The motor could be switched on manually, adding some engine noise, although at speed this is barely noticeable as there is quite a bit of tyre noise generated from the wide diameter wheels.

The larger wheels provide a taxi like turning circle, considered useful for city driving and manoeuvring close to a home or public charging point.

With a low centre of gravity the i3 feels very secure in terms of roadholding. What I found most in contrast to driving my heavy Mazda (parked well back behind the shiny BMers) was the effect of the regenerative braking - than seems to take over managing the car's momentum.

With no gears, "clutch control" on a hill is almost automatic and after taking your foot off the accelerator, such as when arriving at a junction, the electric motor switches from 'drive' to 'generator' mode, feeding power into the battery and providing quite strong breaking effect. When you, eventually, mentally adjust to this, I'd expect that would save mental energy, especially when driving in town.

So the car almost feels like it is intelligently, semi-controlling the vehicle.

The dashboard displays were, it was claimed, the most advanced of any BMW vehicle, and less daunting than that of the Leaf (but I'm sure both are easy to get used to).

In converation with the salesman en-route, the BMW trial of an electric version of the Mini was raised but that, apperently, was abandoned due to the battery compromising interior space. In the i3, with no drive shaft and a purpose-made design from scratch there's extra space between driver and front passenger for storage, and lots of headroom. The use of lightweight materials such as carbon fibre and polycarbonates has meant going back to the drawing board for design and manufacture to make a rather idiosyncratic shape - although fashion's a funny thing, just look at how the mini seems increasing dated, and in current designs iterations, bloated and ugly in my view.

Some other stats quoted in the test drive were a suggested cost of £3 to charge overnight to 100 mile range, depending on tariff, and that four wind turbines power all the power requirements of the Leipzig production plant.

The soft sell didn't, however, mention that the standard model costs from £29,950 inc. VAT - eligible for Government subsidy up to £5,000. The BMW i3 with Range Extender has a RRP from £33,100 inc. VAT, is eligible for Government subsidy up to £5,000, but unlike the all-electric is subject to 5% Business in Kind Tax liability.

Chandler's Show - the gentrification continues as Super-Urban comes to Portslade

The main feature of the BMW i3 is that it is a zero emisison car but with modern standards for drivability, providing the emotional benefit of not poisoning the neighbourhood but offers a range that is nothing revolutionary.

This is a car, at present, for up-market, early adopters, and you'd need to be independent-minded when visiting a sales floor where the i3 is marketed from only one corner of a sales room otherwise filled with large engined ICE vehicles.

So why might I not be buying? Because I don't live a Top Gear delusional fantasy. In no circumstance I can envision stumping up £30,000 for a car. Sorry Chandler's, thanks for the free Latte, but buying new (for me) is an absurd waste of money.

However, the tax advantages, a change in circumstances requiring a regular distance commute, may make me reconsider, perhaps for a leasing deal.

But really, I would need to examine how sensible that would be financially when something decent would probably be available for 1/20th of the price, and that would be a lot of bike (just kidding).

But within a certain range of commuting journeys, it could make sense to think about all running costs going forward (bearing in mind not having to buying petrol), and in some circumstances the sums could be advantageous - plus I'd expect depreciation will be relatively low for this vehicle.

There may well be a good supply of early adopters.

BMW UK offering test drives of the new i3 electric from 16 November, three charging options available

28 Oct 2013

Having signed up for a Test Drive of a BMW i3 electric vehicle, I was called today by a BMW representative to confirm my interest, and to refer me to my nearest test drive dealership.

On behalf of you, dear reader, I assented, providing an answer to a market segmenting question, specifically on what was my main interest in the vehicle: the options being either the technology, environmental performance or fuel cost savings benefits.

I was also offered information on, or rather, asked if I'd thought about, the charging options, the options being:

  • Standard 13 Amp charger - that charges in 8-10 hours, that comes free with the vehicle;
  • BMW Wallbox - £315 subject to survey and government grant (£1315 without the grant). Installed by Schneider Electric. 3-4 hours to 80% charge.
  • Connector for charging at public charge points - £80.

Test Drives of the BMW 3i will be available in the UK from 16 November.

Apple pin-points where it's going with motion and location sensor applications - integrated travel solutions a suitable application

26 Sep 2013 - Upon introducing the new iPhone 5S, Apple's senior vice president of worldwide marketing Phil Schiller claimed this was 'the most forward thinking iPhone we've ever created'.

In other words, not all it's features will be immediately ready, pending new software and applications, as well as the market, being lined up to exploit the opportunities presented.

The new 'forward thinking' iPhone, available for delivery next month, has headline features of a faster processor, better camera and fingerprint scanning for improved security and safer e-commerce. Less heralded and more relevant to intelligent mobility capabilities may well be its discrete 'M7 motion coprocessor' chip and support in the new iOS 7 operating system for iBeacons technology.


More accurate motion detection with less battery drain

In the current iPhone 5 motion detection is compromised by need to maximise battery life, as well as possibly having less precise sensor technology.

For example, using the telematics app GPS Speed HD - that records driving data such as acceleration, distance, route and speed analysis - data is sampled only roughly once a second - leading to less accuracy judging by a test drive on Millbrook track, as well as out on the road.

In test driving the Nissan Leaf on the high speed track at LCV 2013, after being overtaken by the electric Caterham 7, I easily cruised up behind, with 97mph shown on the dashboard (before easing off as I saw no need to overtake…). However, the GPS reading from GPS Speed HD only registered a maximum of 86mph at that point.

Deep into the September Apple Keynote Phil Schiller stated, "We have a completely new part of the iPhone, we call it the M7, that works alongside the A7 (main processor chip). It is a motion coprocessor".

"It takes advantage of the sensors (in the iPhone) and it continually measures all the data coming from them without even having to wake up the A7 chip."

"It measures from the accelerometer, the gyroscope and the compass."

"With new software and applications, you're going to get a whole new level of health and fitness solutions, never before possible in a mobile phone."

"We're updating our Core Motion API inside iOS7 to read this data and provide it to applications and it can characterise and analyse the data to tell applications whether you're stationary, walking, running or driving."

In an unusual hint at where Apple Inc. is going, Schiller said Apple has been working with developers on this but would only mention one: with Nike for it's Nike+ move app to help keep track of fitness activities.

Applications that could also benefit from more precise data, and allowing greater battery life, will also find this useful, not least in transport. Such as, perhaps, iOS in the Car.


iOS 7 iBeacons: An unsung feature with immense promise

iBeacons featured as just a word on a slide at Apple's WWDC in June, but as pointed out by TidBITS magazine author Michael Cohen, has the potential to provide functionality related to accurate positioning of iOS devices, without requiring new hardware.

To quote Cohen, "Apps can use iBeacons to answer the question 'Where am I?' not in terms of a location on a map, as GPS, but in terms of where the device is relative to another device. Specifically, where it is relative to another device acting as an iBeacon."

An iBeacon is a low powered, relatively cheap, radio transmitter using widely supported Bluetooth communications technology that can be placed anywhere. When an iOS device gets near it, it can estimate how far apart the device and iBeacon are.

With several iBeacon devices are closely located, exact location is possible by triangulation.

Any iPhone 4S or later, and any third-generation iPad or later, has the ability to be an iBeacon through the use of Bluetooth 4.0 and Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE) - this means several hundred million people will already have devices that support iBeacons.

As Cohen explains it, BLE devices are battery-friendly and can run for weeks without recharging. So how could they be used? Well, a store could set up iBeacons in each department or aisle, so you could use a store directory app and get in-store directions to something you're looking for. Museums could offer tour apps, and Cohen even imagines a future version of Find My iPhone that would work inside a house, finding that iPhone that slipped between couch cushions.

Third-party standalone iBeacon devices will start at about US$100 each, and Cohen suggest that the price may drop quickly with scale.

Currently, there's not may applications taking advantage of iBeacons, but this is a capability of iOS 7 that is just waiting for the right app to come along.


£10million competition in Integrated Transport - infield solutions - Competition Briefing and Webinar

The Technology Strategy Board is to fund feasibility studies then in-field trials of solutions in this sort of areas with a new £10million competition in Integrated Transport - infield solutions - to open on 14 October 2013.

The Technology Strategy Board is to invest up to £10m in large-scale real life in field trial(s) which is an industrial research programme targeting the acquisition of new knowledge and skills for developing new products, processes or services that bring about a significant improvement, efficiency over the existing products, processes or services.

Apple has, unusually suggested where sit is heading, stating it is developing new software, and partnering with developers to exploit iBeacon technology for accurate location awareness more accurate motion detection in then hands of consumers.

This, and similar, technologies may be avenues worth exploring.

The TSB funding is intended to address the challenges of transport efficiency through integration. It's not hard to envision the sorts of issues that could be solved by having accurate data provided to travellers using passive by low powered, precisely located (and cheap) iBeacons, for example at interchanges between different modes of travel such as bus and rail interchanges or airports, if not just shopping malls.

To find out more about this TSB competition call connect members are invited to come along to a competition briefing and consortium building event on a yet-to-be-decided location on 17 October. There will be the opportunity to learn more about the scope and application process, network with prospective collaborators and take part in the consortium building session, which will be hosted by the Transport KTN.

All delegates will have the opportunity to present a two minute elevator pitch, which will take place during the afternoon consortium building session. If you would like to pitch please register.

Alternatively you can also register to take part in the concurrent webinar briefing.

Transport KTN at LCV 2013

On 5 September for day two of LCV 2013, Transport Knowledge Transfer Network again running a series of short, informative, and informal presentations at the LCV Forum.

In introducing the series of talks, Rob Furlong summarised their purpose as 'ant-siloing' for the various transport sectors.  As shown in the gallery above (or see my LCV 2013 gallery on Flickr) Adrian Waddams outlined the opportunities for the automotive in the marine industry, Jim Lupton described the why, what, where and where opportunities exist in the rail and industry and John Ingram said what opportunities exist for overcoming barriers to uptake of low carbon vehicles in the HGV industry.

Presentations followed by Daniel Ruiz of Transport Systems Catapult, Nigel Walker on Access to Finance for the Technology Strategy Board, John Laughli (Programme Manager - Low Carbon Vehicles, Technology Strategy Board), Nick Smailes (of Technology Strategy Board) on a fortcoming competition on transport and building energy systems, as well as Nikoleta Piperidou of the Energy Generation and Supply Knowledge Transfer Network (EG&S KTN). 

Earlier on the stand Cenex's Niche Vehicle Network announced the winners of its niche vehicle R&D competition - while surrounding the Forum recipients of TSB funding had displays, including Oxis Energy showing its Lithium Sulfur lightweight battery technology.


BMW fighting to retain the 'value layer'

At the time of writing it is half an hour before Apple Inc is due to present its latest innovations in the mobile technology space - that will no doubt relate in some way or other to use within the car because that's what drivers are choosing to do. 

The always fascinating Asymcar podcast, presented by mobile technology business commentator Horace Dediu offered some astute insights into the drivers of current developments of the human interface for the car - and how it is coming to be more and more aligned to the interface for other locations in our lives - facing the screen of an iOS, Android or similar mobile device.

In Horace Dediu's predicted scenario the mobile device that we choose to carry around will, by default, impose an information layer on top of the other layers of the car - as the OEMs will (in his view inevitably) loose out to the consumers' preferred solutions for entertainment, navigation and other applications.

The OEMs would prefer to to retain control their own driver displays, as well as have their own navigation displays in the car but Dediu think their will loose that control because of the ability software developers on iOS and Android etc. to learn and evolve quickly, far faster than is possible by OEMs on exclusive proprietary platforms.

The funny thing I noticed with the BMWi3 on disp[lay at LCV 2013 last week though is the dashboard actually looks almost identical to a phone display and iPad alongside it in the centre console - except you can't take it out of the car.

BMW were noticeably absent from list of car makers that had so far agreed to be involved with iOS in the car previewed at Apple's last Keynote in June.

I spoke to BMW's representative on their stand at LCV 2013, who didn't wish to agree there was a competition between car and mobile user interfaces - despite the obvious flattery by imitation and the almost ubiquitous usurping you see on the road where smartphones are placed in line of sight by almost every driver.

I'm tempted to agree with Horace Dediu but in practice Apple Maps (for instance) is still deficient for navigation - even if not very user-friendly and polished. 

Here's one example where Apple Maps didn't foresee my journey to LCV last week would have an insurmountable obstacle....

I also had to wait for a couple of combine harvester as I re-routed (by map) round this road closure - plus I was only taken on that scenic route as Apple Maps took me off the M1 a junction too early for Millbrook!

I still prefer the actorly voice of Apple's navigation to the shrill US call-center voice of Google Maps however.

The BMW line seems to be that their drivers will always prefer BMW's interfaces, and there would always be security reasons why they would want to retain control.

A possible issue that has recently emerged that could have a bearing for the safety and appeal of the connected car is the reported efforts of security agencies to sabotage encryption technologies that are vital for data security - and perhaps personal security in future.

The issue as far as Horace sees it is where the 'value layer' is , which is likely the real reason for the likes of BMW not partnering with the likes of Apple or Google.

But what happens, he speculates if Google might require OEMs to fit sensors required to steer cars to the shopping malls where goods are for sale by Google's advertisers - much like what happens when you're lucky enough to ride the route unexpecedly including rug outlets decided on commercial grounds by a Delhi taxi driver.

At the Frankfurt Motor Show currently underway, numerous car interface technologies were announced by the likes of Tom Tom, Nokia and Ford.

Anyway, let the speculation continue even if there is any news on progress of iOS in the car at Apple's Keynote.

No live stream seems available from Apple so I'm watching ...

Private Eye magazine sniffing around for DfT's motivations for seemingly over-egging its traffic growth forecasts

Last month I discussed how the latest DfT National Transport Survey, showing the number of average trips made per person has fallen to levels not seen since the 1970s, contrasts markedly with projections for traffic growth used to justify the accelerated road spending announced the June Spending Review.  The Department for Transport's report to Parliament Action for Roads - A network for the 21st century predicts that by 2040 traffic on strategic roads will have grown by 46%, based upon "central" estimates of population growth, economic growth and the decline in the cost of motoring.

"Central" here implies a neutral estimate, but the variations of upper and lower could be highly voilatile, especially for oil prices. My suggestion for one possible cause of this over-egging of traffic growth forecats, which I've not seem noted elsewhere, was the basis used for forecasts of future oil prices. These are from DECC projections of October 2012 looking ahead to 2030 which suggests, in my mind, a very low variation between low and high forecasts price of just $20 per barrel - with the estimation for 28 years hence only assumed to be  just $10 per barrel above that in 2012 - as a maximum increase.

As an update, Campaign for Better Transport today reported that Private Eye's Hedgehog column recently reported another way DfT could have bended the figures to ignore current trends sayong, "how unfeasibly high Government traffic forecasts are being used to justify road-building"

According to the Private Eye column, the government have decided to ignore the trend for less car use that has been evident from before the financial crisis, so "At the Treasury, George Osborne and Danny Alexander have thus dusted off the 1989 command paper which was founded on a belief that roads generate economic growth and on official 1989 forecasts that traffic could almost double by 2015."

The column goes on to say, "These forecasts won’t only channel huge chunks of the transport budget into anachronistic road-building, but they will give ministers and councils an excuse to continue cutting bus subsidies and not to reshape streets to make cycling or walking the popular choice for short journeys. "


Adventures in Car Hacking

Ahead of presenting their findings to the hackers conference Defcon21 at Las Vegas on 1-4 August, two security experts, Chris Valazek and Charlie Miller, have demonstrated to Forbes magazine and NBC television in the US how it could be possible to hack into a car’s built-in computers to manipulate such gauges as the speedometer, and even take  control of the wheel. They give Carson Daly on MBC a startling demonstration.

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The project was funded by a grant from the US Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency to highlight the security risks affecting modern-day cars.

Miller, a security engineer at Twitter, and Valasek, Director of Security Intelligence at IOActive, had physical access to the vehicles to access the computer systems of each car, which the car makers featured in the test would not be the case for a malicious hacker.

However, Miller and Valasek’s work physical access to the cars’ computers as researchers at the University of Washington and the University of California, San Diego, experimenting on a sedan from an unnamed company in 2010, found that they could wirelessly penetrate the same critical systems Miller and Valasek targeted using the car’s OnStar-like cellular connection, Bluetooth bugs, a rogue Android app that synched with the car’s network from the driver’s smartphone or even a malicious audio file on a CD in the car’s stereo system.

“Academics have shown you can get remote code execution,” says Valasek, using hacker jargon for the ability to start running commands on a system. “We showed you can do a lot of crazy things once you’re inside.”


Adventures in Automotive Networks and Control Units

Accordin to their speakers notes for Defcon21 automotive computers, or Electronic Control Units (ECU), were originally introduced to help with fuel efficiency and emissions problems of the 1970s but evolved into integral parts of in-car entertainment, safety controls, and enhanced automotive functionality.

"This presentation will examine some controls in two modern automobiles from a security researcher's point of view. We will first cover the requisite tools and software needed to analyze a Controller Area Network (CAN) bus. Secondly, we will demo software to show how data can be read and written to the CAN bus. Then we will show how certain proprietary messages can be replayed by a device hooked up to an ODB-II connection to perform critical car functionality, such as braking and steering. Finally, we'll discuss aspects of reading and modifying the firmware of ECUs installed in today's modern automobile."


Ecu tool to hacking car ECUs - for $25

Also due to present at Defcon 21, Spanish engineers Javier Vázquez Vidal and Alberto Garcia Illera are to give a demonstration of what the call a "ecu tool". They have built a $25 device that lets them bypass security in a car's electronic control unit.

"Seed/Key algos broken, RSA busted We will learn all about Bosch EDC15 and EDC16 car ECUs. How they communicate, what protocols they use, their security and why it is worth hacking them. There will be a demonstration of a tool that does all of these, and costs less than $25 to build."

Alberto Garcia Illera (@algillera) is a 25 year old who is passionate about hacking and social engineering. Alberto studied mathematics and computer systems in Spain and has spent the past several years working as a professional penetration tester. Alberto has presented at several seminars where he has helped teach hacking techniques to large companies such as Microsoft, the Spanish government and the cyberterrorism Spanish police department. At DEF CON 20 in Las Vegas, Alberto has presented a talk titled "How to hack all the transport networks of a country".

Javier Vazquez Vidal AKA Bi0H4z4rD is a hardware security specialist. He has been involved in several reversing projects that go from a simple IP camera to the well known PS3. He has worked for Airbus Military among other companies.



Intelligence agencies alleged to have capability for remotely seizing control of cars

Proof that it could be possible to remotely interfere with car controls has been lacking. There have been suggestions, however, that high profile Rolling Stone journalist Michael Hastings's death could be been caused by his Mercedes being hacked.

"What evidence is available publicly is consistent with a car cyberattack," says Richard Clarke, a former counterterrorism adviser to the US National Security Council, in a Huffington Post interview. Intelligence agencies, he says, can remotely seize control of a car to make it accelerate wildly or brake suddenly, for instance.

Clarke cited research, carried out for the US National Academy of Sciences, showing that "connected cars" – equipped with built-in cellular technology used by dashboard apps and engine-monitoring software – can be hacked remotely.


Car key immobiliser hack revelations blocked by UK court

Last month in the UK, a High Court judge blocked three security researchers from publishing details of how to crack a car immobilisation system.

German car maker Volkswagen and French defence group Thales obtained the interim ruling after arguing that the information could be used by criminals.

The technology is used by several car manufacturers.

The academics had planned to present the information at a conference in August.

The BBC reported that three researchers are Flavio Garcia, a computer science lecturer at the University of Birmingham, and Baris Ege and Roel Verdult, security researchers at Radboud University Nijmegen in the Netherlands.

"The University of Birmingham is disappointed with the judgement which did not uphold the defence of academic freedom and public interest, but respects the decision," said a spokeswoman.

"It has decided to defer publication of the academic paper in any form while additional technical and legal advice is obtained given the continuing litigation. The university is therefore unable to comment further at this stage."

Radboud University Nijmegen said it found the ban "incomprehensible".

The presentation - entitled Dismantling Megamos Crypto: Wirelessly Lock-picking a Vehicle Immobiliser - is still listed on the website of the Usenix Security Symposium, which will be held in Washington next month.

Megamos Crypto is included in the transponder built into car keys which uses RFID (radio-frequency identification) to transmit an encrypted signal to the cars. This deactivates a system which otherwise prevents their engines from starting.

VW introduced the technology in the late 1990s and it is also used by Honda and Fiat among others.

The researchers said they had obtained a software program from the internet which contained the algorithm devised by Thales to provide the security feature. They said it had been on the net since 2009.

The researchers said they had then discovered a weakness in the code meaning that it could be compromised, and added that there was a strong public interest that the information be disclosed to ensure the problem was addressed.

Finding in Volkswagen's favour, Mr Justice Birss said he recognised the importance of the right for academics to publish, but it would mean "that car crime will be facilitated". A Volkswagen spokesman declined to comment on the interim injunction.


All your devices can be hacked

In a TED Talk last February Avi Rubin explained how hackers are compromising cars, smartphones and medical devices, and warns us about the dangers of an increasingly hack-able world.

Latest figures show travel by road continues to fall but Government says congestion only going to get worse - how does that work?

The Department for Transport has today published its latest official statistics of the UK transport system as measured by the National Transport Survey, showing that the number of average trips made per person has fallen to levels not seen since the 1970s.

The Great British Traveller - as measured in the survey - is also travelling 4% fewer miles per year and is spending 8 hours less per year travelling since 1995 to 1997 but the average journey is a fraction longer although a mere 7.0 miles.

Social, domestic and pleasure predominates for the reason for making each trip. Commuting makes up a mere 15% of all trips according to he survey.



Key points

In its Key Points, as identified in the National Travel Survey: 2012, the DfT highlights the decrease in average trips made per person, "Over the long term, trip rates increased until the mid-1990s, but have since fallen back to the 1970s level. In 2012, the average person made 954 trips per year compared to 956 in 1972/73 and 1,086 in 1995/97."

Further key points include:

  • In 2012, the average distance travelled was 6,691 miles which is 49% higher than in 1972/73, but 4% lower than in 1995/97. Average trip length was 7 miles.
  • Since 1995/97, trips by private modes of transport fell by 14% while public transport modes increased by 2%. Walking trips fell by 27%.
  • Most of the decline in overall trips rates between 1995/97 and 2012 is due to falls in shopping, visiting friends and commuting purposes.
  • In 2012, trips by car (as a driver or passenger) accounted for 64% of all trips made and 78% of distance travelled.
  • On average, females make more trips than males, but males travel much further each year. The average number of car driver trips and distance travelled by men is falling while those by women are increasing.
  • Concessionary travel pass take-up was 79% of those eligible (82% of females and 74% of males); ranging from 66% in rural areas to 88% in London.
  • People in the highest household income quintile group made 29% more trips than those in the lowest income quintile and travelled nearly 3 times further.
  • Estimated average annual car mileage was 8,200 miles.


Green campaigners say continued decreases in road travel leave Government policy exposed

The Campaign for Better Transport (CBT) points to the contradiction it sees in the latest figures showing declining road use and "Government forecasts of huge traffic growth, used to justify a £28bn programme of new roads" as announced in the Spending Review.

Statistics that this transport charity highlights from the 2012 National Travel Survey and DfT traffic statistics include:

  • Distance travelled per person per year is down 4% since 1997 for all modes of transport and down 7% for driving in a car or van.
  • The annual average distance travelled per car has fallen 11% since 2002
  • Car ownership levels are now lower than in 2005 at 1.13 cars per household (in 2005 it was 1.15 cars per household)
  • The latest DfT traffic statistics for 2012 show that the amount of traffic is now below the level seen in 2003 (259 billion vehicle miles per year, vs 260 billion ten years ago).

According to CBT "The 2012 National Travel Survey (NTS) reveals that the distance travelled by car drivers is down 7% since 1997. Yet government forecasts claim that car traffic in England alone will jump by 23% in the next twelve years compared to 2010 figures. The NTS shows a continued and marked divergence between actual travel patterns and the Department for Transport projections based on their computer model. Where the NTS shows downward or static trends in behaviour, the projections used by the DfT to set policy have been inaccurate in repeatedly predicting high traffic growth."


Turning point in about 2007

It's own graphics using DfT data suggest an inflexion point in distance travelled and traffic volumes on roads in about 2007, although for Highways Agency controlled roads growth has been flat since about 2000.

Stephen Joseph, Chief Executive, Campaign for Better Transport said, "The National Travel Survey shows that year on year the amount we drive has been going down. Yet year on year government forecasters predict a huge jump in car traffic. It's madness to base a £28bn policy on such shaky forecasting. We urgently need a review of the whole model that the Government uses."

Campaign for Better Transport has highlighted how money earmarked for new road building would be better spent tackling the £10.5 billion backlog of potholes on the nation's roads and offering people more choice in how they travel.


DfT's forecasts 'worst' case scenario based on an oil price estimate of just $10 per barrel higher in 2030

The Government's spending review at the end of June, subsequently the Department for Transport fleshed out the proposed spending plans in it's report to Parliament Action for Roads - A network for the 21st century.

The Department at the same time also released its latest traffic forecasts predicting that by 2040 traffic on strategic roads will have grown by 46%, based upon central estimates of population growth, economic growth and the decline in the cost of motoring.

Since growth depends on a range of scenarios, if the costs of motoring fall and population grows more quickly, this could mean traffic could grow by as much as 72%. If economic forecasts were downgraded, if population growth stagnated and if motoring technology did not develop as fast as predicted, the increase would be smaller. However, the minimum forecast increase, 24%, is still a substantial rise on current levels.

One variable that could have a huge impact on the forecasts is future oil prices, which are based on DECC projections of October 2012 looking ahead to 2030. This predicts what seems a very low variation between low and high forecasts price of just $20 per barrel - with the estimation for 28 years hence only assumed to be at best $10 per barrel lower than in 2012 and the high basis just $10 per barrel above that in 2012.

The Government has committed to a "trebling" of previously planned spending on roads. But in terms of planning intelligently for the future - such as development and deployment of traffic management systems and technologies, as well as the increased use of data and information - the Department for Transport, while promising to "embrace technology", merely offered to "continue to watch developments in technology, to respond to emerging trends, understand their potential impacts and capture their benefits, as well as to guard against possible negative effects."

CBT claims that DfT's Road Transport Forecasts have been too high for more than 20 years, and the new forecasts published in July 2013 are therefore questionable.

Innovation - if it doesn't feel risky you're probably not doing it right…

George Osborne's invoked past inventive spirit in Spending Round 2013 statement to Parliament this week, referring to Britain as "once being the place where the future was invented…from the railway to jet engine to the world wide web."

Emphasising a need for re-emphasis on investment for the longer term, he stated that, "a huge amount of innovation and discovery still goes on" but that "this country needs to invent, pioneer and export around the world."

But as David Bott described in his recent blog post Tilting the playing field- innovation is hard, and "to do something new almost invariably requires taking risk."

Adjustment to the new is difficult but, in a changing world, seems a safer bet that stasis. But, isn't innovation, like sustainability, just an unarguable concept, meaning whatever one choses it to mean?

So where then, is the risk in innovation, and at what stage does a brave decision need to be made?

The answer, according to Clayton Christensen, is in choosing to take a risk on the right kind of innovation.

Too often, in his view, managers in companies "who are not stupid" favour innovation that produces profits in the short term, often selected using the wrong metrics for measuring profitability.

Christensen is a Harvard Business School professor and renowned author and innovation expert, best known for his book “The Innovator’s Dilemma,” which articulated his theory of disruptive innovation and is said to have had a profound influence on many thinkers and business leaders, including Steve Jobs.

Professor Christensen delivered three lectures on Management Studies as part of the Clarendon lecture series held at Saïd Business School, Oxford earlier this month.

I highly recommend devoting 59 minutes for a full viewing of the first on disruptive innovation "A theory of Economic Growth".

Christensen's theory - building on his theory of disruptive innovation - is that, in a growing economy or company, there's tends to operate a healthy cycle of innovation that drives growth, such as occurred in Japan in the 1950s to the 1990s. This cycle, he asserts, has since been broken by a fixation on innovation offering short term profitability rather than, what appears riskier, disruptive innovation - that develops news markets.

Christensen proposes there are types of innovation:

  1. Disruptive innovation is an innovation that helps create a new market and value network, and eventually goes on to disrupt an existing market and value network (over a few years or decades), displacing an earlier technology. This type of innovation creates jobs and uses capital. Examples include Personal computers - that disrupted mainframe and mini computers in the 1980s and cellular phones that disrupted fixed line telephony from the 1990s;
  2. Sustaining innovation is an innovation that improves the performance of established products. Sustaining innovations may be either revolutionary or evolutionary. They require less capital but produce few new jobs;
  3. Efficiency innovations frees capital - so gives a short term boost to profitability - but tends to eliminate jobs.

Christensen considers that disruptive innovations usually do not entail technological breakthroughs. Instead, they package current technologies into a disruptive business model.

Many businesses, in his view, make the mistake that, at first glance, appear counterintuitive, "Understanding the customer is the wrong thing to do — it’s confusing. Customers rarely buy what companies think they are selling."

Instead, what’s really important is understanding the job that customers are trying to accomplish.

In the consumer electronics field, Steve Jobs, as described in the biography Steve Jobs, By Walter Isaacson, was a long time fan on Sony, a company known for innovativion from the 1960s to the 1980s - such as its Trinitron TV's and Walkman, but have since lost its innovative crown too Apple and other rivals.

As described by Isaacson, in 2003 Sony had all the ingredients to make an iPod killer, including advantages in owning music content but failed as it was scared of conibalising the markets of existing products.

When Steve Jobs introduced the Apple iPad in 2010 critics saw it was a new product category but wondered who would buy it, considering it merely an oversized iPhone.

Apple didn't repeat the mistake with the iPad. Fixating on features makes it impossible to see the tablet computer as another more than an iPhone with a bigger screen, but misses the point for the market. What people buy are experiences to solve problems, the proof in that case that the iPad is currently in the process of disrupting the PC market. iPad sales have grown three times faster than the iPhone did 3 years after its launch, and late last year, for the first time, more tablet computers were shipped than desktop PCs or Notebook computers.

While admitting his model is a developing one, Christensen suggests a reason why the economy has stagnated for so long is a skewed focus on efficiency innovation, offering a 1 or 2 years payoff and no new jobs, compared to beneficial effects that could have arisen from more disruptive innovations - that can take five years to pay off.

David Bott concludes his article saying here is no single way to drive innovation faster.

Perhaps what's required is not just faster but in the right direction, and a taking risks to solve problems that only the inventor or manager who can look beyond the horizon, can imagine.



Underlying user needs and drivers of young people's travel

One issue highlighted by Transport KTN's recent Round Table on Improving Urban Mobility Without New Infrastructure was a need to better understand underlying user needs and drivers of young people's travel needs and how these differ from those of 'established travellers'.


Why getting transport right matters to young people

A new report, ‘Transport Barriers Facing Young People’, commissioned by the Intergenerational Foundation and undertaken by Campaign for Better Transport has found the main issue facing 17-20 year olds is the rely on buses more than any other age group and are significantly disadvantaged by policies affecting bus provision.


How young people travel

According to the report, young people travel a shorter total distance and make fewer journeys than they used to but must now make longer journeys to reach their most frequent destinations. They make most of their journeys by car but, in common with older people, they use cars less and travel by bus more than people in the middle age groups.

However, they make significantly fewer car journeys than they did – down from almost 600 trips per person each year in the mid-1990s to 377 trips in 2011 – and fewer young people now own cars or have driving licences (only 38% of 17-20 year olds now have a driving license compared to 48% in the early 1990s). The reasons are not yet well understood but certainly include the increased costs of motoring and use of the internet and social networking.

The report states that the current generation of young people have grown up with very limited freedom of independent travel, compared to previous generations. Their surroundings had been dominated by traffic and their travel options limited because of the danger of traffic. Travel behaviour and lack of exercise are factors in growing obesity levels.

Children and young people also suffer disproportionately from the effects of car use. They figure prominently in road casualty statistics with road collisions the most common cause of death for 14-35 year olds. They are often more exposed and more vulnerable to air pollution from traffic. They will have to live with the consequences of carbon emissions from transport and climate change.Young people make a higher than average proportion of journeys on foot. The proportion of journeys they make by bicycle is no higher than the average for all groups and is strikingly low. The proportion and number of journeys made by bicycle by young people have declined since the mid-1990s.

There is mixed evidence on young people's attitude to driving, public transport and cycling. While most young people still want to learn to drive, they attach less symbolic value to cars and public transport can meet their transport requirements.Young people have been making more of their journeys by bus and use buses much more than any other age group (15% of their journeys are by bus compared to 7% for all ages). They often depend on buses for access to education, training and jobs.


Similar trend in the United States

The trend away from driving as soon as one is old enough to drive is noticeable and is forecast to continue in the United States. The American Millennial generation is leading the change in transportation trends, accordion to a new report from the US PIRG Education Fund that shows that American 16 to 34-year-olds drove 23% fewer miles on average in 2009 than in 2001 - the greatest decline in driving of any age group. and such demographic changes and other factors will likely keep driving down for decades, according to the report, A New Direction: Our Changing Relationship with Driving and the Implications for America's Future.

"The Driving Boom is over", said Phineas Baxandall, Senior Analyst at the US PIRG Education Fund and co-author of the report. "The constant increases we saw in driving up until 2005 show no sign of returning. As more and more Millennials become adults, and their tendency to drive less becomes the norm, the reduction in driving will be even larger."


Young people’s concerns about transport

The Campaign for Better Transport finds that transport problems frequently prevent young people from accessing employment. Low skilled jobs are increasingly located out of city centres where they are more difficult to reach by public transport and may involve shift or weekend work when buses are less frequent or may not run at all.

With education it is the cost rather than the availability of transport that is likely to present most problems for young people. The majority of students travel to college by bus. For those at college, help with travel costs can be inadequate and, since the abolition of the Education Maintenance Allowance, is at the discretion of the college.

Older people and those with disabilities have statutory concessionary travel schemes that meet their local public transport costs but the report highlights that travel concessions for younger people are patchy and are vulnerable to spending reductions.

Also, despite for the tenth year in a row, the Government has required that train fares rise by more than the rate of inflation, fares have increased by 33% in cash terms from 2007 to 20123 and many bus services have been reduced or discontinued entirely with over 40% of local authorities again making cuts in 2012/13.

These pressures are suggested to likely increase. 


Campaign for Better Transport Recommendations

The Campaign for Better Transport recommend that the 2013 spending round should not result in young people being further priced off public transport or more cuts being made in bus services; and should recognise the need for a national free concessionary travel scheme for young people and jobseekers.

Existing Department for Transport (DfT) programmes should consider the needs of young people more clearly and the Better Bus Areas fund, in particular, should encourage bidders to improve the offer for young people in their areas The DfT should give a stronger impetus to accessibility planning by local authorities.

The group also considers that the planning system should support the creation and retention of jobs in locations that can be served by public transport, particularly for entry level jobs suitable to young people It also calls for a package of measures to be introduced to make roads safer, provide cycling training at schools and promote cycling as a normal activity for people of all ages and backgrounds. Lastly it asks bus operators to be encouraged to see the benefits that improving their offer for young people, for example, in how they can align their corporate social responsibility programmes with young people's reliance on their services, for instance targeting programmes at young people on low incomes or those looking for work.


Time that young people's needs as transport users are taken seriously

Without these kinds of actions, Campaign for Better Transport said "we face a situation where young people are priced out of opportunities. Spending cuts that lead to this situation will simply add to long-term costs for our society as a result. It is time that young people's needs as transport users are taken seriously by the country's decision makers."

Smart cities: clean, Georgian and balanced

To help define the term ‘smarter moving cities’, at least in the mind of  the average city-dweller, transport consultancy Steer Davies Gleave recently reported the findings of a study by Research Now to find out what people really want from their cities, or what they think makes a city ‘smart’


Clean Techie Transport

A question for "What makes a city 'smart'?" produced a top three unprompted descriptive terms of 'Clean', 'Technology' and 'Transport'.

Prompted with a list of six different 'umbrella' aims for a smart city which they were asked to rank in order of personal priority, most appealing was 'a pleasant place to live, work and socialise', followed by, 'a healthy, vibrant economy'.

In terms of picking out the smartest cities - the largest were chosen so the researchers 'normalised' the voting for population size - resulting in the choices being Oxford, York, Bath, Cambridge then Brighton - which, perhaps, equates to desirability in line with the first finding.

The panel were also asked to indicate how they would wish their nearest major town or city to be improved and out of ten possible suggestions the top three were:

1. Availability of facilities and services including shops, places to eat and drink, sports and entertainment facilities;

2. Modern public transport providing a realistic alternative to car;

3. A safe and secure place to travel around.


Most people are looking for cities to be largely traffic-free

According to Steer Davies Gleave, "this highlights the paradox of the high street: there is a desire for shops and facilities in our cities, but at the same time the rate of shopping on-line continues to rise. However, another finding, that 69% "prefer to meet people face-to-face than using technology such as video-conferencing" reminds us of the inherently social nature of people. So... what people really want is a pleasant all-round experience, therefore designing attractive retail hubs with good, broad services looks like the way forward."


From a transport planners point of view though, it is re-assuring to see that modern public transport is right up there in terms of what people want to see investment in. On the other hand, facilities for cars is some way down the list and below that for pedestrians. These are perhaps the most important findings from a behavioural change point of view as we can safely suggest that respondents believed that a smarter moving city is one where car use is unnecessary. Throwing further light on this issue, 46% agreed (and 27% disagreed) that "cars should be kept out of town centres so they are more pleasant for pedestrians". So the majority prefer car free town centres, although it is still noticeable that a significant minority remain wedded to car, but this is likely because public transport is not always up to scratch.



The report concludes by saying "most people are looking for cities to be largely traffic-free, with car being unnecessary due to modern public transport, and attractive facilities for walking and cycling. This will enable the creation of business and retail districts which are pleasant places to be, and which will give retailers a fighting chance to compete against the web. Within this context, transport and information technology need to play their part in enabling the vision."


Modelling the ‘balanced’ design

Underlying this perception, for a recent feature in Transport Xtra magazine, Lenny Winsel, of Quadstone Paramics, claims urban space designers are increasingly becoming more sensitive to the needs of the pedestrian as a primary ‘mode of transport’.

Quadstone Paramics sells what is described as microscopic traffic and pedestrian simulation software used by planners to design efficient, economical, driver and pedestrian friendly transportation infrastructure

Traditionally, he claims, urban space design favoured vehicle movement over pedestrians and the need for high quality transportation infrastructure in order to promote urban growth and to facilitate the movement of goods. 

Currently, he claims, there's a shift in design trends and policy and it is no longer the case that the car rules supreme; indeed, urban space designers are increasingly sensitive to the needs of the pedestrian as a primary ‘mode of transport’

Initiatives to support the green agenda and health issues, i.e. making urban spaces more attractive for people to walk in and less polluting are also key drivers for the move towards a balanced urban space policy. Pedestrian safety is reported to be seen as paramount when considering new urban road usage or revising existing facilities.

On 2008 Quadstone Paramics launched it Urban Analytics Framework (UAF) to model pedestrian and shared space environments using its microsimulation software. 

According to Lenny Winsel "The arrival of pedestrian simulation enables the possibility of modelling shared space environments, where both vehicle and pedestrian are considered in the same environment. This is the biggest advancement in transport planning since the first microscopic traffic simulation was introduced in the early 1990s."

UAF, developed in collaboration with Crowd Dynamics provides an analytical evaluation of the quality of shared spaces for both vehicle traffic and pedestrians.

"Similar to a traffic simulation model, pedestrian behaviour is a function of the space and the information given to the agent by that space. On a run time basis agents are able to adjust their walking speed, walking path, compliance with respect to pedestrian signal phase and anticipate danger when attempting to cross a road."

He added that consultants can add value to traditional transportation planning projects by conducting detailed assessments within shared space areas, and concludes by saying "shared space analysis is now an important requirement for any urban transportation planning project and, as pedestrian modelling evolves, we are confident to see more demand for balanced design that delivers on the principles of shared space." 


Lenny Winsel speaking at Modelling World 2013 where Transport KTN also facilitating a workshop

Lenny Winsel is speaking at Modelling World on 6 June at the Oval, Kennington.

Attendees at this event are also invited to shape the Transport Systems Catapult future programme on the National Transport Systems Modelling Facility (NTSM).

This workshop will be facilitated by the Transport KTN and will explore the concept of a National Transport Systems Modelling Facility (NTSM). It will introduce the Transport Systems Catapult vision for a facility through which discrete transport models can be integrated.

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