Models in the Covid-19 era

Traffic Technology International

September 2020


Gavin Jackman, UK managing director of traffic modelling firm Aimsun, gives his opinion on the unique challenges of 2020, and how, thanks to a smart new collaboration in the UK, predictive modelling can take place in real time

After 12 years in the transport modelling industry, I cannot remember how many times people have asked me if the solutions offered on the market could detect, capture, ingest, analyse and model pedestrians and/or cyclists.


Fast forward to the most surreal times of our lives – the era of Covid-19 – which has caused the government to turn all transport policy on its head. The message from the government is now, “Drive your own car! Don’t use public transport!
Cycle or walk your commute!” and with the latter, sustainability issues have been firmly thrust upon the transport sector.


Aimsun Next 20, which launched in June this year, includes new models for bikes and pedestrians and their interaction with motorised vehicles, that is, Aimsun Next has become a true mixed-traffic simulation model. What with authorities reallocating more road space to cyclists and pedestrians in response to Covid-19 and the UK government’s £5bn (US$6.5bn) fund, we finally have the cash injection and the motivation that we need to change our roads’ infrastructure.


So that’s great, we have modelling functionality, we have funding … if only we had some data! Luckily, we don’t have to look too far. Enter, an energetic and dynamic collaboration between Vivacity and Aimsun Ltd.



Growth through collaboration

The collaboration grew out of NEVFMA (Network Emissions/Vehicle Flow Management Adjustment), the UK’s first countywide predictive model in the county of Oxfordshire. A Highways England project won via an Innovate UK competition, the NEVFMA model focuses on improving air quality on strategic and local roads where contaminants exceed annual limits.


NEVFMA uses Aimsun Live in a real-time deployment, taking feeds from multiple different detection systems. To supplement the Highways England and Oxfordshire County Council detection sites and adaptive tra c control (ATC) system, real-time feeds were taken from the 75 Vivacity detectors dotted around the Oxfordshire road network.


Oxfordshire kindly granted us access to the Vivacity online API and a data adaptor was quickly developed. A few tweaks of the firewall, and Aimsun Live was consuming real-time data into our live prediction engine.


Now, while this is effectively just another ATC feed from another vendor, it was precisely the simplicity of the adaptor and the enhancement to our prediction engine that encouraged the decision to extend the system and feed Aimsun Live, creating a county-wide hub of ingested real-time data feeds for Oxfordshire. That not only feels good to say, but also has great appeal to those trying to move forward with local authority data reuse and digitisation, maximising investment by integrating separate sub systems. At this point this project is only using the motorised vehicle counts but there is potential to include cycling data at a future point.


One project where cycling and walking data is clearly coming into its own is OmniCAV, led by Aimsun. OmniCAV focuses on modelling cars, HGVs, public transport, bicycles and pedestrians in a digital twin for the accelerated testing and certification of connected and automated vehicles.



Looking to the future

So that brings us up to date. It’s still early days, but Aimsun and Vivacity are now actively working together to approach other possible customers with our technical integration, with an existing overlapping user base including, Leeds, Transport for Greater Manchester, Transport for London, to name just a few. It seems that, together, Aimsun and Vivacity can do a lot more to increase the use of public authority transport data, for a much more streamlined, innovative, digital information model that goes a long way in considering the future of transport models and systems.


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