Gaist: The role of geospatial data in improving road safety

NEARLY forty years ago, a milestone in road safety occurred when the law requiring all drivers to wear their seatbelts came into force.

Today, another significant step forward in road safety (an area about which Gaist is passionate) is underway. This time, it is not as a result of a physical intervention but through our use of data which is helping us to ensure our roads are safer and more resilient for all users.

The rise of mobile technology, progress in capturing techniques and the rapid advance of the internet-of-things (IoT) have all contributed to the explosion of real-time location datasets which are available to those managing and interacting with our transport infrastructure.

Vast volumes of fresh (and anonymised) data from vehicles as well as from within the road surface, can today tell roads decisions makers which sections of the network most urgently need repair for example, which roads are too dark or where a dangerous pothole has formed as well as to identify and address trends which might not previously have been spotted.

Safer winter roads

One specific area which is benefiting from the intelligent application of geospatial or location data is winter service. Here, dynamic datasets are supporting network managers to keep vital roads both safe and open during the winter months, while also achieving best value from their winter maintenance budgets – a significant challenge for many local authorities.

At Gaist, we are partnering with a Swedish pioneer, NIRA Dynamics, which uses gigabytes of anonymized data from regular passenger vehicles to gather real-time road information to support those involved in winter maintenance.

Previously, nightly decision making by Winter Duty Managers, had been based on Road Weather Information Systems, whose limitations have been well documented.

Separately, as part of the ADEPT (Association of Directors of Environment, Economy, Planning & Transport) LiveLabs project, Suffolk County Council has installed 60 road surface sensors to help support an effective winter planning service.

Joining forces to leverage location data

Individual efforts like this are playing an important role in the application of geospatial data to improve service for road users and to make network planning and maintenance more effective and efficient.

But, as TRL, the global centre for innovation in surface transport and mobility has noted, “datasets are collected independently and for very different reasons… but their use in combination or for purposes other than the one for which they were originally collected, is relatively uncommon.”

Increasingly this is being addressed – with roads professionals recognising that the true value of location datasets to boost road safety and to enhance the level of service for customers is through the amalgamation of different data-sets.

By blending data-sets which are being captured independently, the richness of the available intelligence improves significantly. Our understanding of the network and its condition is illuminated and the industry as a whole – not just individual organisations – can benefit.

At Gaist, that is exactly what we are doing through our newly launched global partnerships programme. Forging relationships with companies across the mapping, mobility and asset management sectors and layering our datasets with other rich, high-quality data from ‘best in class’ organisations, we are advancing the deployment of geospatial data both in the UK and internationally and unlocking new and innovative applications of it.

Our partners include TRL, with whom we are exploring the detailed case for a digital twin of the UK’s road network, which could play a vital role in managing road repairs, prioritising investments and interventions and reducing delays and disruption for road users.

We are also integrating our rich road asset data into TRL Software’s cloud native, iROADS asset management system to enhance both of our existing data products and services and to bring greater value to clients across the globe.

Data to drive our build back

Rich, blended roads data-sets are already supporting the design and build of improved and revitalised road infrastructure – the post pandemic ‘buildback. They are enabling engineers and other roads professionals to better answer their questions and to finetune assets to better meet the needs of citizens and those using them.

Our collaborative approach at Gaist is aligned with that advocated by the Geospatial Commission – the body established by the government in 2018 as an independent, expert committee responsible for setting the UK’s geospatial strategy and coordinating public sector geospatial activity (what it terms the “coal and iron fuelling a new revolution”.)

In its 2020-2025 Geospatial Strategy, it notes that the mission to unlock the significant economic, social and environmental opportunities offered by location data “will require collective effort in connecting data, people and systems” with organisations learning from and working with each other and other countries and by breaking down information silos.

It is a sentiment with which we wholeheartedly agree. For further information contact [email protected]

About this author:

Andrew Loveless_Gaist.jpeg

This Guest blog was written by Andrew Loveless, Chief Revenue Officer (CRO) at Gaist. Andrew brings a deep knowledge of the digital mapping market gained through three years on the OS board.

Andrew’s expertise is also utilised on the Geospatial Commission’s Transport Location Data Taskforce. The Taskforce was convened by the Commission to better understand how access to location data can support commercial innovation in mobility services. It brings together businesses and key public sector organisations to explore use cases and consider key questions around them such as which gaps exist in the market for datasets and how investment in them can be incentivised. Read more...

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