West Midlands to harness 5G for transport technology

West Midlands to harness 5G for transport technology

Cars which find their own parking spaces and trams which report their own faults are some of the futuristic transport systems being developed under a new partnership in the West Midlands.

The collaboration will see Transport for West Midlands (TfWM), West Midlands 5G (WM5G) and Vodafone work together to improve travel around the region.

5G innovation will play a key role in the area’s post coronavirus economic recovery plan, driving investment and delivering new jobs. As such, the partnership is in discussion regarding projects where 5G can improve transport and support congestion and emissions reductions.

Birmingham City Council leader Ian Ward said the existing parking and tram projects show how “cutting edge technology” can make West Midlands travel “easier, faster and more convenient”, whether through metro network safety or cutting the numbers of motorists looking for parking spaces.

Two 5G mobility projects already under development and led by WM5G

The Kerbside Parking Availability Trial

The West Midlands is the first region in the UK to trial the concept of 5G-enabled identification of live kerbside parking availability. With the support of parking technology provider AppyWay, a series of trials took place in Sparkhill. The demonstration saw a live HD street scan being captured from a vehicle travelling an agreed section of roadway. The footage was transmitted and processed via 5G networks to confirm parking availability in real-time to the AppyParking app. By unlocking real-time availability parking data to drivers journey times, the flow of traffic and emissions levels can be improved. This will reduce congestion, improve air quality within urban environments, and make it more accessible for visitors to access our city centres and local high streets.

Connected tram trial

5G is also proving to be an enabler on public transport. WM5G has been working with GoMedia – a leading infotainment provider – on some more practical solutions for the region’s tram network. By plugging CCTV systems into a 5G network, hi-resolution video footage can be monitored in real-time far more efficiently. In a world of social distancing, this can help transport operators determined the effectiveness of public safety measures on their services. Here 5G is enabling an intervention without the need for draconian measures to ensure public health and safety. The footage is captured and monitored at secure locations, protecting not only the safety of the network’s passengers but also their privacy. The same principles can be replicated outside of the carriage and at stops and stations, enabling safeguarding at a safe, social distance and controlling the number of passengers.

TfWM, which is part of the West Midlands Combined Authority (WMCA), was awarded £22M Future Transport Zone funding to work with universities and industry on such technologies.

West Midlands 5G Testbed has been set up by the Department for Culture, Media and Sport and WMCA to accelerate the deployment of 5G networks and to develop new 5G services across the region.

West Midlands mayor Andy Street said the Covid-19 pandemic has shown “how vital good connectivity is”.

He said: “That is why I want the West Midlands to be at the forefront of 5G, using the technology to find new ways of working, travelling and staying connected. And when it comes to travel we are not just investing billions in rail, trams and bus technology, but through our Future Transport Zone and 5G Testbed, we are looking to lead the way on developing the transport systems of the future.”

Vodafone Business director Anne Sheehan added: “We’re hugely excited to be working on such innovative projects here in the West Midlands. We believe 5G has the potential to revolutionise transport.

“Its ultra-high bandwidth and low latency are perfect for real-time interactions that will underpin solutions to some of the biggest transport issues we face today, such as congestion and emission levels. It’s fantastic to be able to explore such solutions as part of the 5G Testbed and give the West Midlands the opportunity to become a global leader in this space.”

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