How location data can help the safe rollout of automated mobility

The Geospatial Commission – who have been working to identify how location data can be maximised to support the future of mobility and transport networks – have published a report explaining how such data can be used to facilitate the roll-out of autonomous vehicles. 

Connected and automated mobility (CAM) is viewed as an inevitability and a great deal of research is going into how to make it as safe as possible. 

Almost all new vehicles are connected to the internet to enable the use of navigation systems and smartphone integration.  This can provide drivers with information about their route or the speed limit, and collect data which can be used by traffic authorities to monitor road conditions and identify accident hotspots.

It is thought that by 2035, 40% of cars in the UK could have self-driving capabilities and the self-driving market worth up to £42bn. Vehicles will rely on location data to know where they are in relation to their surroundings, including the kerbside, other vehicles and pedestrians.

Location technologies could enable vehicles to communicate with other road users and smart infrastructure, improving traffic flow and congestion as well as making it safer and easier for drivers. Location data and technology will have a key role in the sector, but there are challenges around data discoverability, accessibility and quality.

The report sets out what is already being done to meet these opportunities and challenges and some of the action areas for government, academia and industry to improve the quality and breadth of location data. It identifies that the sector should:

  • Improve the understanding of the road environment by addressing key location data gaps
  • Improve how location data and location technologies can work together by defining accuracy standards
  • Improve data sharing practices to make connected vehicles’ data more accessible and reusable

Such connectivity could have uses beyond the safe navigation of an autonomous vehicle to its destination. Connected vehicles could, for example, act as roaming sensors, collecting data on air quality which could be centrally aggregated and used to augment air quality data collected by static monitoring stations, giving a more real time and granular picture. This could be important in cities and towns that have few monitoring stations.

Steve Unger, Independent Commissioner at the Geospatial Commission, said: “’Connected and self-driving vehicles will revolutionise how we travel. They will make our roads safer, by eliminating avoidable accidents, and they will improve both efficiency and quality of life, through more effective management of congestion.

‘They are made possible by technological advances in various areas, such as sensor technology and artificial intelligence, but the practical application of these new technologies depends critically on access to location data. Detailed mapping of the street environment, in a form that is readily discoverable, easily accessible, and of high quality, will be key to realising the potential benefits.’


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