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‘Hack the Highways’ event aims to improve UK roads

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A roads industry ‘hackathon’ will explore how anonymised, aggregated mobile phone data about the journeys made by road users can help tackle challenges including congestion, maintenance and poor air quality.

Organsised by PA Consulting and O2, the ‘Hack the Highways’ event will take place at Highways UK 2019, held in Birmingham on November 6-7.

Participants will work with data scientists, behavioural psychologists and engineers to analyse an anonymised, aggregated data set from O2 “capturing 140m anonymous road user journeys, and a range of other open data sources from Highways England, the Met Office and other data providers”.

They will work in collaborative teams, across different technology, engineering and analytics organisations, to find “data-driven insights to improve drivers’ experience across the country”.

In addition to improving journeys for fleets and company car drivers, the initiative aims to “help to break down barriers and silos that have been a problem for the roads supply chain in the past”.

Collaboration and data 

Charlie Henderson, head of road transport at PA Consulting said: “Collaboration between industry and exploiting data are vital to solving the big challenges in transport. The hackathon is not a competition, but a unique opportunity to work with individuals from many organisations such as Highways England, WSP, TFL and IBM to come up with ingenious solutions that will make a real difference for road users.”

Dave Sweeney, director at O2 Motion, said: “Anonymous crowd data can help transport providers deliver better customer service, so it’s really interesting to be working on this project with PA Consulting. It fits brilliantly with our shared aim of improving the way people in the UK travel and we’re excited to see how the new technologies and partners brought together here can further enhance road travel across the country.”

Daisy Smith, head of performance analysis and modelling at Highways England, said: “We are looking to work with both existing partners and companies from outside the sector to help us deliver our Digital Roads vision. This hackathon is a great way to stimulate fresh thinking in this area.”

Smart Motorways

How the UK’s road network will develop to meet demand remains unknown, as the future of Smart Motorways was called into question in October, when Transport Secretary Grant Shapps called for a review into their safety.

Shapps told MPs "we know people are dying on smart motorways" and said recommendations are expected "in a matter of weeks" to ensure all motorways are "as safe as they possibly can be".

His announcement follows an admission from Highways England that the dangers of removing the hard shoulder had not been investigated when it began introducing the concept.


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