News

TfL innovation challenge winners tackle congestion on London’s roads

17 June 2019

Transport for London (TfL) has today announced the winners of London RoadLab, an innovation challenge to develop new technology that could help to make London’s roads safer and smarter during roadworks.

Working in partnership with Plexal, the innovation centre based at Here East in London, and utility companies, TfL invited suppliers to pitch ideas for tackling some of the biggest problems caused by roadworks last year.

Nine innovative solutions were shortlisted and awarded £20,000 each. They joined a 10-week programme and worked closely with subject matter experts across TfL, London councils and utilities to further develop products that could have a positive impact across the capital.

Following the 10-week programme, four products have been chosen to be taken through to the contract negotiations stage with a total value of up to £2m. These include:

Immense Simulations – Developing an automated way of modelling the impacts of roadworks before they are done, which will improve the flow of traffic and reduce disruption. This modelling is traditionally a very time-consuming process.

Mobilised Construction and Route Reports (pictured above) – Two different solutions that fit internet-enabled devices to TfL buses and Dial-a-Ride vehicles and collect data on road quality. This would allow TfL to identify where the road surface is wearing out in real-time and would make it much easier to predict where maintenance will be needed ahead of time. This data could also help the London boroughs with their highway maintenance activity.

SAM – Using artificial intelligence (AI) to monitor social media to identify incidents and emergency events on the roads. This could make it easier for TfL to respond to incidents more quickly.

The other five solutions were also of interest and TfL will continue discussions with Oxford Plastics, which produced road barriers that could improve safety on the road, and RSK, which demonstrated an innovative solution to detect water leakages underground prior to any digging taking place.

The SAM accident heatmap overlay

The challenge was funded by TfL’s Lane Rental programme, which charges utility companies to “rent” road space while digging them up for maintenance. This money is then invested in tackling congestion and minimising the impact of roadworks and has saved £100m in lost travel time since the scheme started.

The London RoadLab programme is the first time TfL has used an innovation partnership procedure, a new way of working with the private sector which allows TfL to find ways of tackling some of the biggest challenges facing the capital. This procedure has been developed to make it easier for the public sector to encourage innovation from start-ups or large companies without hampering competition or transparency.

Michael Hurwitz, TfL’s director of transport innovation, said: “We’re working closely with partners across London to make the capital one of the world’s smartest cities and these projects all have the potential to make a real difference to the safety and efficiency of roadworks in London.

“London RoadLab is a completely new way of procuring for TfL and we’re excited to see these products in action on the capital’s streets, helping to tackle congestion and making our roads safer, and smarter.”

Steve Spencer, Thames Water’s chief operating officer, said: “We always aim to keep disruption to a minimum, but with most of our pipes buried under London’s busiest roads it’s important to always look for new and innovative solutions to completing essential works. This Roadlab challenge has been fantastic in introducing new ideas and we look forward to see them put into practice to benefit Londoners.”