UCL's Centre for Transport Studies and MaaSLab lead the way in UK EIT Urban Mobility projects
19 February 2020
In November 2019, the European Institute of Innovation and Technology (EIT) launched EIT Urban Mobility in Barcelona, aiming to transform Europe’s cities into liveable spaces. CTS represented UCL, and alongside MaaSLab, is leading the way in UK EIT Urban Mobility projects.
In December 2018, the EIT designated the KIC-MOBILus consortium as its new urban mobility innovation community, to be known as EIT Urban Mobility. Since January 2019, EIT Urban Mobility has been working to encourage positive changes in the way people move around cities, in order to make them more liveable places. The aim is to become the largest European initiative transforming urban mobility, thanks to co-funding during 2020-2026 of up to €400m from the EIT (an independent body of the European Union, set up to power innovators to turn their best ideas into products, services and jobs for Europe). This is set to be complemented with c. €1.2bn from various cities, industries and universities.
Headquartered in Barcelona, EIT Urban Mobility was officially launched last November at the Smart City Expo World Congress, and has a seven to fifteen year objective to facilitate and fund the collaboration of cities, companies, knowledge and research institutes to create mobility solutions that will accelerate the transition towards more liveable urban space.
Consisting of 48 partners from fifteen countries, with the likes of the city of Amsterdam, Universitat Politècnica de Catalunya, the Fraunhofer Society and BMW involved, EIT Urban Mobility is the first European initiative which brings together the ‘knowledge triangle’ of universities, research centres and industry, and cities.
UCL, the only UK member of EIT Urban Mobility, will contribute to this initiative via its unique lab facilities, such as PEARL (Person Environment Activity Research Laboratory), due to be completed in east London in 2021. PEARL, spearheaded by UCL’s interdisciplinary Centre for Transport Studies (itself part of UCL Civil, Environmental and Geomatic Engineering), will be a 40,000m3 physical lab, and will include a 1:1 scale urban space model with neurological, physiological and behavioural sensors to investigate human interactions with infrastructure (e.g. to monitor control system performance in autonomous vehicles, or pedestrian responses in certain situations). PEARL is the natural evolution of UCL’s PAMELA (Pedestrian Accessibility Movement Environment Laboratory), which has been home to such innovative projects as testing boarding/alighting patterns on trains and platforms for Network Rail, London Underground-funded work on the detailed person-centred design of the New Tube for London, and ESRC/NIHR funded research on how people with dementia see and navigate around the environment.
CTS Director Prof Nick Tyler, who attended the EIT Urban Mobility launch event, commented on the immensity of the opportunities offered for UCL through EIT Urban Mobility, the Centre for Transport Studies and MaaSLab, which is based in the Bartlett Energy Institute.
This will be a great opportunity for us to apply our urban mobility research in cities across Europe, with innovative interventions combining the forces of industry, cities and university research, with the aim of making cities better for people.”
EIT Urban Mobility strives for a form of mobility that allows people and goods to move affordably, fast, comfortably, safely and cleanly. More concretely, by 2026, this initiative aims to create 180 start-ups, free up road space in 90% of its partner cities, launch 125 new products, increase shared mobility in all partner cities, and attract €38m investment.
After the launch of the first Call for Proposals in April 2019, 60 projects were selected involving partners from all over Europe. These projects, ranging from academic and education activities to innovation projects and business creation, will be implemented over the next two years.
One such project funded by EIT Urban Mobility is UCL’s AI-TraWell, which stands for ‘AI-powered, proactive TRAvel assistant to self-monitor the user’s experience and craft personalised travel solutions for promoting WELLbeing.’ Led by Principal Investigator (PI) Dr Bani Anvari, and also involving Prof Nick Tyler and Prof Peter Jones from UCL Civil, Environmental and Geomatic Engineering (CEGE), and Dr Helge Wurdemann from UCL Mechanical Engineering, AI-TraWell’s vision is to make travellers enjoy their (daily) trip through an AI-powered, pro-active bottom-up approach (i.e. asking about travel experience).
The AI-TraWell consortium comprises six institutions from four European countries (including two research and development institutions, and two industrial partners). In collaboration with BMW Group, Fraunhofer Society, Achmea, and the cities of Munich (Germany) and Lublin (Poland), UCL have developed an AI-powered, proactive chat-bot called AI-TraWell, which recommends personalised travel alternatives that fit travellers’ needs and preferences, with the aim being to improve an individual's travel experience.
PI of AI-TraWell and Director of the Intelligent Mobility Group and Lab at UCL, Dr Anvari, notes how "the funding we’ve received and the contacts we have made through EIT Urban Mobility have helped us combine information on users’ needs, preferences, and physical and mental wellbeing, with real-time and predictive information about all modes of transport, which in turn will help users manage the increasing complexity of mobility, deliver better and more reliable mobility services, improve efficiency, and contribute to the overall wellbeing and health of people living in our cities."
Dr Anvari also points out that
the AI-TraWell team is interested in reaching and working with technology platform, data and public transport service providers, plus customer perspective analysers. Being part of EIT Urban Mobility enables us to connect and work with dynamic, exciting partners across Europe, who are leaders in the field of urban mobility.”
Dr Anvari is also involved with UMOS, another project that has benefitted from EIT Urban Mobility connections and funding. UMOS’s aim is to build a pan-European Urban Mobility Operating System (UMOS) - an open, collaborative, GDPR-compliant and standardised solution for all parties in the mobility domain to easily exchange data among each other. Dr Anvari describes how this "audacious goal" will "provide more transportation options to all travellers. UMOS will be an invisible layer that lift barriers between different travel solutions and ecosystems. This project consists of ten industrial partners, six academic partners, and seven cities across Europe.”
Another UK and UCL project with EIT Urban Mobility backing is MaaSLab, based in the UCL Energy Institute in The Bartlett. The MaaSLab research group studies all surface modes of transport for passengers and freight across space and time, and focuses on the planning, design and operation of low carbon transport systems, new mobility services and business models, and the potential of big data. MaaSLab also produces complete solutions and mobility concepts, including recommendations for a new generation of SUMPs (Sustainable Urban Mobility Plans). In 2019, MaaSLab secured EIT Urban Mobility funding for two projects; Pro-MaaS and ShareMORE.
Dr Maria Kamargianni, the Head of MaaSlab and PI of the projects, highlights how
“EIT has offered the opportunity to apply the MMI in the wider EIT city club and collaborate with universities, cities and councils in order to extend our research and at the same time test, validate and apply our results in different settings."
Pro-MaaS, which stands for Policies and Regulations required for enabling the MaaS concept, aims to identify drivers, barriers, enablers and challenges for the effective deployment of MaaS (Mobility as a Service). UCL MaaSLab will provide state-of-the art tools to analyse the readiness of cities to initiate MaaS services (the MaaS Maturity Index calculator), as well as methods and existing insights to map MaaS regulatory policies and governance models. MaaSlab will also offer analysis of other European cities in order to compare and benchmark Pro-MaaS cities.
SHARE-MORE (SHAREd MObility Rewards), aims to optimise the added value of car-sharing services and promote a portfolio of transport services that enable and encourage sustainable urban mobility. The project will balance the needed knowledge base through its six-partner consortium consisting of universities, cities and a car-sharing commercial company, to understand the underlying mechanisms of potential incentive designs, develop a specific incentive scheme, and pilot the proposed scheme within a real car-sharing service. UCL MaaSLab will lead on social survey design for SHARE-MORE, including stated preference (SP) experiments to capture individual’s preferences for mode choices, car-sharing, and related incentives.
Maria Tsavachidis, CEO of EIT Urban Mobility, noted how the initiative “will improve the quality of life in cities, and have a positive impact on climate and economies. After a year of setting up our operations, we are now ready to kick off and turn plans into reality. We are ready to make a difference and to work towards making our cities more liveable for all citizens."
EIT Head of Communications and Stakeholder Relations, Alice Fišer, underlined that “the EIT delivers innovative solutions to global challenges facing our societies. By creating new opportunities for innovators, entrepreneurs and students across Europe, EIT Urban Mobility will make innovation happen. As part of Europe’s largest innovation network, EIT Urban Mobility will work with us to deliver a greener, healthier and more sustainable Europe for its citizens.”
Please note, some links lead to external sites.
- UCL Civil, Environmental and Geomatic Engineering homepage
- UCL Centre for Transport Studies page
- PEARL page
- PAMELA page
- UCL Energy Institute website
- MaaSLab page
- Prof Nick Tyler CEGE profile
- Dr Bani Anvari CEGE profile
- Dr Maria Kamargianni's IRIS profile
- EIT website
- EIT Urban Mobility website
- Caption: Passengers in a London Underground carriage reading, sitting down and looking round.
- Credit: Victor Forgacs, Unsplash.
With thanks to Bernadette Bergsma, Prof Nick Tyler, Dr Bani Anvari, Dr Maria Kamargianni and Dr Georgia Kouta for their help with this article.