Oxfordshire using real-time simulation to cut congestion and emissions

by Juliana O’Rourke, TransportXtra

June 25th, 2020


The simulation of predicted NO2 pollution levels from EarthSense’s MappAir dispersion model integrated with Aimsun Live provides the first real-time, traffic-linked dispersion model


Oxfordshire County Council is now using real-time traffic simulation to reduce congestion and harmful, traffic-related emissions.

Aimsun has led the delivery of a new large-scale model of the county. Now running live, the model was delivered for the Network Emissions/Vehicle Flow Management Adjustment (NEVFMA) project, funded by Highways England and delivered in partnership with EarthSense, Siemens Mobility and Oxfordshire County Council. NEVFMA uses the Aimsun Live solution to generate short-term predictions for traffic and nitrogen dioxide (NO2) dispersion to help traffic centre operators make the most effective traffic management decisions.

Llewelyn Morgan, Head of Oxfordshire County Council iHub, said: ‘We are always trying to explore how we improve and manage air quality. The NEVFMA project will provide unique insight into the potential of using real time air quality data to influence how we plan and actively manage our highways network.’

Oxford City and County Council had planned to implement the world’s first Zero Emission Zone (ZEZ) covering a small area of the city centre, however, due to the coronavirus outbreak, the councils have announced that the ZEZ will not begin in December 2020 as planned.

Air quality expert EarthSense is working with Aimsun, Oxfordshire County Council and automation company Siemens to help inform the prospective ZEZ.

Last year, a study by Kings College London found roadside air pollution in Oxford stunts lung growth in children by 14.1%, whilst living near a busy road in Oxford increases risk of hospitalisation for stroke by 7.4%. People exposed to particulates over time develop significant life-limiting health problems, as well as triggering further underlying health problems, making them worse, and in some cases causing death.

Transport is the most significant source of nitrogen dioxide (NOx) in Oxfordshire, said the study, accounting for 75% of emissions. Whilst national policy already places walking and cycling at the top of the transport hierarchy, in practice transport planning can often give priority to motor vehicles. This is despite evidence showing the major contribution of traffic (and slow, static traffic, for example rush hour traffic queues), to air pollution.

The simulation of predicted NO2 pollution levels from EarthSense’s MappAir dispersion model integrated with Aimsun Live provides the first real-time, traffic-linked dispersion model. This system allows the user to visualise pollution and tackle emissions in official government Air Quality Management Areas alongside other key regions of interest.

Aimsun’s solution uses dynamic simulation to allow the model to generate predictions for individual vehicles in under four minutes. These vehicle predictions are the basis for calculating the concentration of the predicted NO2 using forecasts of meteorological and pollutant data in the upcoming four minutes. Siemens Mobility has integrated the EarthSense air quality sensor with the county’s traffic signal infrastructure, such that it can be easily retrofitted to existing signal heads, providing validation of on-ground pollutants and enabling traffic control interventions to be based on air quality levels.

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