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Wednesday, 23 March 2011 13:29

IBM drives smart transport centre


A software system which has cut Stockholm's gridlock by 20 per cent, and emissions by 12 per cent, is one of the assets provided by IBM to the newly established Smart Transport Research Centre, which has been formed to grapple with Australia's growing transportation problems.

When IBM conducted an Australian Commuter Pain survey recently it found that 81 per cent of Australians experienced some form of travel stress. Brisbane was identified as a particular troublespot, with 90 per cent of respondents reporting that they were stressed by their commute.

That placed the city at number 13 in a global index of traffic troublespots. The computer giant has now teamed with academics in Brisbane and SE Queensland to establish the STRC to work on systems to help reduce the daily travel hassle - initially focussed on deployment in Brisbane, but eventually with implications for the rest of the travelling nation.

The STRC, which will be based at Queensland University of Technology but also draw in academics from Griffith and Queensland Universities, will use technology to simulate and model traffic flows as it looks for solutions to the growing problem. A core team of ten researchers has been brought together under the direction of Professor Edward Chung who has been appointed director of the new centre.

Professor Martin Betts, executive dean of QUT's faculty of built environment and engineering, said in a QUT release that South East Queensland would serve as a traffic management case study which could eventually deliver national benefits.

'Using simulation, modelling and visualisation techniques, the Centre will develop a platform to test and evaluate proposed traffic management strategies and tools in a real-time environment," he said.

The centre intends to work on developing predictive route technology to allow people to plan the easiest, fastest route to their destination using real-time and predictive information. It will also explore how to reduce motorway congestion by developing enhanced traffic management strategies such as ramp metering to minimise queues.

The STRC will also investigate how economics can shape decisions about commuter route selection, and how that can be used to develop strategies for more equitable road-use. Also on the agenda is an examination of how special purpose transport lanes can be more effectively managed using dynamic management techniques.

If these can be shown to work in Brisbane, the plan is to eventually extend them to other cities around Australia, with Sydney likely to be among the front runners given that its residents endure the longest average daily commute, lasting 35 minutes according to the IBM Index.

According to IBM Australia Smarter Cities Executive, Catherine Caruana-McManus, IBM has joined the initiative as a 'silver partner' and will provide software to the centre.  She said a range of software assets would be made available, including the traffic management system used in Stockholm.

According to IBM's Smart Cities website that system has reduced the incidence of gridlock in Stockholm by 20 per cent and cut emissions by 12 per cent.

It would also provide the software used for tolling which is already in use by Queensland Motorways. IBM has not provided any computer hardware for the centre and Ms Caruana-McManus declined to put a value on its in-kind contribution to the STRC.

Ultimately she said IBM hoped that the research conducted at the centre would help the company develop solutions that could be sold for traffic management around the world.

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