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The Midlands Intelligent Mobility Conference – Part One

As I walked in, I was immediately impressed by the amount of people present at IMPART and the range of people attending. From Directors of technology companies, to University lecturers/professors to cyber security consultancies, there was plenty of networking opportunity and conversations to be had for everyone.

Key note speaker, Prof Phil Blythe kicked off the proceedings with his talk on the direction and strategy of Department for Transport over the next 12 months. He mentioned the development and integration of the ‘clean air system’, which is a system designed to charge a fee for parking/driving your car within city centres. The aim is ‘to address all sources of pollution, including nitrogen dioxide and particulate matter, and reduce public exposure to them using a range of measures tailored to the particular location’. (gov.uk, May 2017)

Expanding on from this system, Lewis Johnson from Parkopedia expressed the urgency that people feel to use the parkopedia website. The statistics are in the millions, and Lewis expressed his view to develop an app that can pre determine where to find a parking space. This would inevitably reduce fuel emissions, and would also compliment the clean air strategy.

Christine Hemphill supplied some intriguing data on the studies and statistics of disability growth within the UK. More than 12 million people in the UK have a disability; 1 in 5 of the population. Only 1 in 3 disabilities are obvious and half of the UK’s population will be 50 by the year 2020, which means a greater incidence of disability occurring. This means a growing population of need to develop a satisfying solution.

Interlinked with Christine’s data, a pitch from BeemCar raised a few eyebrows with their vision for the future of city travelling, especially for the disability sector. They are ‘a cross between a monorail and a ski lift’ (BeemCar,beemcar.com), providing 2 and 4 seater PODs with the accessibility features for a wheelchair user. The one catch is…the PODS would be in mid-air! With the promise of more than 20,000 passengers per hour, this system would revolutionise the way we approach public transport. However, this idea opens up a pandora’s box in questions. For example, what about people who have fears of heights? What about safety? If there is a fault with the programming, what are the consequences?

Prof Phil Blythe established that there were many questions still to be answered such as ‘do we understand what users really want?’, do we understand what impact automation will have on congestion and health in the UK?’, and ‘are the DfT doing enough to let the UK know what they are striving to do?’. The conference, in short, was a way to bring the communities associated (autonomous, transport, education, IT, cyber security and data management) together, to start the conversations flowing of a number of inextricably difficult conundrums to solve.

By Hayley Izzard
Stay Tuned for Part Two coming Friday 2nd March

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