West Midlands 5G and Transport for West Midlands announce investment for innovative transport projects

West Midlands 5G Limited (WM5G) is investing £2.4m in seven consortiums to support the development of new products and services which aim to improve transport across the region.

The first phase of a funding competition will deliver innovation projects that – if successful – will either provide a use case to improve road and rail operational efficiency, provide better-connected transport, or improve passenger experiences.

The projects are scheduled to run until the end of 2021, with many set to complete ahead of that deadline, and each project will include trialling and testing of their service in the West Midlands region.

WM5G is a multimillion-pound programme that both the West Midlands Combined Authority (WMCA) and the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) have
set-up to develop the UK’s first region-wide 5G testbed.

DCMS expects to invest over £20m in this programme, in addition to substantial West Midlands public sector and private investment.

The winning projects from the first round are:

Capacity Manager – Blacc, Immense, Elgin, University of Warwick, and O2
A traffic management solution in which live traffic data is transferred in real-time over 5G to a dynamic road network model. Artificial intelligence working on the data provided, combined with historic event information will create scenarios that provide real-time insights, allowing incidents and congestion to be better managed.

CURBS – Vortex IoT, National Express, BT/EE
Using Lidar sensors and advanced software, real-time 3D point-cloud data will be sent over 5G to provide up-to-date and detailed maps, monitoring roads and rail infrastructure. Following a successful trial, the system will provide live on-street parking information, identify the location of potholes, improve cyclist safety, reduce vehicle damage, and much more.

Passenger Management – GoMedia, Wordnerds and Icomera
An AI-led system – designed to improve passenger experiences and safety – provides intelligence in interpretation of live customer feedback over 5G. Immediate problems can be resolved and a database of categorised issues will provide insights for the operator to improve services. The aim is to enhance the traveller experience by improving the products and services available to passengers across the transport system.

Predikt – AppyWay and Getmapping
A predictive parking system that uses 5G-enabled kerbside imaging to reduce the amount of time spent finding a parking space. This could reduce the estimated £373m spent each year in wasted time, fuel and emissions caused by drivers searching for a place to park.

Transport Accessibility – GoMedia and Icomera
Over 40% of the visually impaired are unable to make all or some of their journeys with public transport independently – with the help of 5G, this project will rectify that by creating a passenger service that will allow more visually impaired people to travel on public transport, helping to develop the transport system of the future for all.

Tram Safety – Icomera, Classone Systems, DigitalRail
Using 5G to stream CCTV footage from trams, images will be analysed real-time to detect people and objects. This will help to increase passenger safety, assist with social distancing, and identify where improvements to accessibility may be required.

Urban Tourism – You. Smart. Thing., Landmrk, Imagemakers, and Oodl
Using 5G-enabled sensors at stations and major venues combined with booking and travel information, real-time traveller demand insights for rail and road networks will be created. ‘Last mile’ routes to destinations and investigations into how to influence travellers will be explored.

Chris Holmes, programme director – Transport at WM5G, said: “We have been delighted with the response to this first competition, which was heavily oversubscribed, and are really pleased to be awarding the funding to projects that we truly believe – when proven – will transform transport within the region. We look forward to seeing what our new partners deliver and will support them in the realisation of real and tangible benefits.”

Chris Lane, head of transport innovation at Transport for West Midlands (TfWM), added: “We have ambitious transport plans for the region and funding competition with West Midlands 5G forms a key part of that. The outcome of these trials will make a significant difference to transport across the region and have national relevance. This news further reinforces the West Midlands’ reputation as one of the UK’s number one locations for both 5G and transport innovation.”

A second round of the funding competition for 5G-enabled road and rail trials closes on Wednesday 2nd December. A share of up to an additional £2.5m is available to UK registered businesses.