CARS which find their own parking spaces and trams which report their own faults are just some of the futuristic transport systems being developed in the West Midlands under a new agreement.
Transport for West Midlands (TfWM), West Midlands 5G (WM5G) and Vodafone have signed an agreement to work together to improve travel around the region.
The partnership is already discussing projects where 5G – new superfast mobile phone network technology – can potentially improve transport and support congestion and emissions reductions, and help the region’s post coronavirus economic recovery plan by driving investment and delivering new jobs.
The agreement, signed by the Mayor of the West Midlands Andy Street on behalf of TfWM and Director of Vodafone Business Anne Sheehan, will see the partners share information and expertise, and develop new transport systems and technology using the region’s growing 5G mobile network.
Two 5G mobility projects led by WM5G are already under development.
The West Midlands is the first region in the UK to trial 5G-enabled live kerbside parking updates, which could reduce congestion, improve air quality in towns and cities, and make it easier for visitors to access city centres and high streets.
Trials have also taken place to connect trams’ CCTV systems into a 5G network, meaning high-resolution video footage can be monitored in real-time far more efficiently, helping transport operators determine the effectiveness of public safety and social distancing measures on their services.
Mr Street said: “We have seen how vital good connectivity is during this pandemic, not only keeping many businesses going, but keeping friends and families connected.
“That is why I want the West Midlands to be at the forefront of 5G, using the technology to find new ways of working, travelling and staying connected. And when it comes to travel we are not just investing billions in rail, trams and bus technology, but, through our Future Transport Zone and 5G Testbed, we are looking to lead the way on developing the transport systems of the future.
“It’s exciting to think about what we can achieve in this area moving forward, and I am delighted we have been able to sign this new partnership with Vodafone.”
Director of Vodafone Business Anne Sheehan said: “We’re hugely excited to be working on such innovative projects here in the West Midlands.
“We believe 5G has the potential to revolutionise transport. Its ultra-high bandwidth and low latency are perfect for real-time interactions that will underpin solutions to some of the biggest transport issues we face today, such as congestion and emission levels.
“It’s fantastic to be able to explore such solutions as part of the 5G Testbed and give the West Midlands the opportunity to become a global leader in this space.”
WMCA transport spokesman and Birmingham City Council leader Coun Ian Ward said: “These projects show how we can harness cutting edge technology to make travel around the West Midlands easier, faster and more convenient. Whether it is improving safety on the Metro network or cutting the numbers of motorists circulating our cities searching for parking spaces.
“We are developing the next generation of transport systems through the Future Transport Zone and 5G testbed as we look to tackle the problems of climate change, pollution and traffic congestion and build our economy following the lockdown.”
TfWM, which is part of the West Midlands Combined Authority (WMCA), was awarded £22million Future Transport Zone funding to work with universities and industry on new technologies which can place the West Midlands at the heart of the next transport revolution.
West Midlands 5G Testbed has been set up by the Department for Culture, Media and Sport and WMCA to accelerate the deployment of 5G networks and to develop new 5G services across the region.
The new agreement allows collaboration on systems which help improve air quality, reduce congestion, accelerate connected and autonomous vehicle technology, and provide public health benefits.