VivaCity’s CEO Mark Nicholson shares his predictions in transport technology with a focus on AI for 2024 and beyond.
This time last year the world of generative AI and large language models such as ChatGPT had only just surfaced into the mainstream, but now they are a topic of daily discussion and debate. VivaCity, along with an increasing number of SMEs, will be experimenting with such tools in order to improve everything over 2024; from product to marketing, customer service to tenders, we’re excited to explore the huge opportunities this unlocks. We also know that the true value of these tools are unlocked through the application of prompt engineering, a skill we expect to see more of a focus on in 2024. Beyond this, we expect healthcare to continue to benefit from more sophisticated AI, more specifically around diagnosis and treatment recommendations.
If we focus back on our industry, we know the transport sector is the single largest contributor to the UK’s CO2 emissions, accounting for over a quarter. We need to accelerate decarbonisation to mirror the success story of the Energy sector over the last decade. AI within self-driving cars seems to get a lot of attention, but we know AI can help fast-track Net Zero and Vision Zero with real-time data, something we expect more cities to capitalise on in 2024.
As the last year has shown, in the world of AI a year is a long time – new developments are sure to spring up and surprise us, and at VivaCity we’re excited to embrace them
What role will regulation play in changing the AI landscape?
AI regulation has been the talking point of 2023 – and expect this to continue in 2024. The UK AI Safety Summit saw 28 countries put pen to paper on prioritising regulation and it will be interesting to see how this evolves over the coming year. The EU AI Act was agreed in December 2023, and it is claimed to be the world’s first-ever comprehensive legal framework on Artificial Intelligence – we suspect this will act as the regulatory baseline moving forward.
We do not see regulation as a major challenge in our sector; playing by the rules is in our DNA, and we were GDPR compliant before GDPR existed. For us, privacy by design is critical, and anonymisation at source is a key benchmark for the sector to adhere to.
What are your predictions for the impact of data on urban planning in 2024?
Vision Zero and Net Zero goals unite all councils across the UK – but the big question is how we can accelerate hitting these goals. Removing data boundaries will allow analysis of nationally representative datasets in order to share lessons learned on macro and micro behaviours much faster. We believe that the sector is at an inflection point, where we can choose to be open or closed – and the time has come to open the floodgates and enable collective learning.
What were the key learnings in 2023 when it comes to active travel and transport?
There is still a great need to improve safety. When it comes to active travel, while the number of cycling miles travelled has increased from pre-COVID levels, safety remains a major concern for many – and it’s widely accepted that improving safety is a key route to unlocking more cycling and active travel.
A report published in November by the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) warned that DfT funding cuts could impede objectives to increase levels of active travel. In particular, the PAC Chair’s comments that the DfT is not providing enough evidence on the efficacy of active travel schemes shows that deciding to collect data and monitor in a forward-thinking way isn’t just helpful for stakeholder management in the short term, but can meaningfully influence the direction of investment and funding in the long term as well. Unfortunately, we’re seeing some of the consequences of a lack of this accurate monitoring and insight.
Decisions made when designing or implementing schemes can impact the future of active travel, transport and safety. So, taking care of this future with robust monitoring programmes is key.
Check out our 2023 Wrapped blog on the monitoring events and projects that topped the charts last year. FIND OUT MORE
What steps are being taken to ensure our streets are safer in 2024? How does traffic monitoring contribute to this?
One of the more direct and immediate steps being taken is to introduce reduced speed limits; last year Wales rolled out a speed reduction from 30mph to 20mph on residential roads across the country and proved such change can be done. Time will tell what the impact is – introducing a 20mph zone does not necessarily equate to a reduction in traffic collisions as behavioural change also needs to follow. But in 2024 we can expect to see the continued expansion of such zones in cities and residential areas.
Improved cycle infrastructure is a visible effect of interventions aiming to both make roads safer for cyclists and encourage more active travel. The number of cycle lanes continues to rise and will do so at an even greater rate next year.
Traffic monitoring plays an essential role in quantifying and measuring the effectiveness of such road safety interventions (e.g. using datasets that can show near misses and track road user pathways) and assessing modal shifts (e.g. using classified counts of different travel modes). This data is also necessary to gain a more holistic understanding of the impact of interventions on the travel network, such as understanding how it affects overall congestion and journey times.
As more travel modes enter the road space, and modes such as e-bikes and cargo bikes are altered to travel at speeds well above legal limits, authorities will look to use technology to understand such trends in real-time and help to pre-empt near-miss incidents.
What are the biggest challenges authorities faced in 2023 and what do you think they may be in 2024?
One of the greatest challenges for authorities has been – and will continue to be – ‘doing more’ with tighter budgets. As staff numbers are cut, authorities have the task of balancing personnel, time and resources alongside funding budgets.
The pressure on achieving Net Zero will continue to build with even greater impetus. While infrastructure improvements like segregated cycle lanes seem to be encouraging more cyclists to take to the road, it is necessary to make active travel more accessible for the everyday traveller – and to do this quicker.
We believe that ‘smart’ doesn’t always have to be shiny, new and innovative. Smart has to be thinking about how best can you build for the future – and that can be as ‘boring’ or ‘prosaic’ as setting aside time to plan how you can show the success of what you’re doing.
How will transport data collection and analytics support local authorities in 2024?
Fundamentally, better data collection will support authorities by ensuring they can identify what they want to achieve from their travel monitoring and how it is best going to serve them. With such data to hand, they can make data-driven decisions that are far more likely to result in successful interventions or decide when they are not needed.
One interesting area of development will be how public and private sectors work together to share data on their roads. A key component to realising this is through smart data sharing, enabling authorities to learn from others and help set a benchmark for transport decision-making and data collection across the country.
Such collaboration will also help to shape best practice for introducing new interventions, bettering road safety, meeting sustainability and Net Zero targets, and managing an increasingly complex network of mobility types. To end on a quote from one of our customers: “data from these sensors is a valuable asset in making the case for further investment in walking, wheeling and cycling”.
The Journey Continues
The journey continues into the 2024 with a commitment to sustainable urban living, safety, and innovation. The amalgamation of data, technology, and a forward-thinking vision positions VivaCity as a leader in shaping the cities of tomorrow. Here’s to another year of progress and positive change!
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