What does the smart mobility transition mean for modelling?


The opening plenary session at Modelling World asks whether rapid change means new models? In advance of my talk there I reflect on this question drawing on the work of the Commission on Travel Demand and the DEMAND Centre.

The first part of the question implies that we are in a world of rapid change. The rise of Uber, increasing autonomy of vehicles, electrification, on-line shopping… the list goes on. Change is happening for sure – but how rapid it is and how much of it is defined by changes to transport technologies seems much more open to question. I argue here that there are a number of trends, many of which our traditional approaches to understanding demand did not anticipate, that have been on-going slowly but for a period of time. Even when we see significant technological change coming to transport this will take some time to happen…

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HumanDrive: human-like attributes of autonomous vehicles

ITS to lead human-centred design and evaluation of automated vehicle behaviour in a new Innovate UK project: HumanDrive

The Institute has been chosen to investigate how an automated vehicle should behave in order to provide its occupants with the right feel and experience, enhancing safe human-like driving strategies, and improving user adoption of these vehicles.

The HumanDrive consortium has recently won a grant, awarded by Innovate UK, under the Connected and Autonomous Vehicles (CAV2) programme. The objective of this innovative project is to build an autonomous vehicle with human-like, natural control and path planning, by 2020. It will be fully autonomous and capable of completing a lengthy end-to-end journey in a variety of settings, including country roads, A-roads and motorways. It will also be designed to mimic the style of a proficient human driver, to provide an enhanced experience for the occupants. ITS has been chosen to use its world-leading human-in-the-loop driving simulator facilities to develop the correct models for achieving this goal.

Professor Natasha Merat, Chair in Human Factors of Transport Systems, explains:

“This is an exciting project for members of the human factors and safety group at ITS, who have been working in this area for the past 10 years, building an understanding of the challenges and opportunities offered by automated vehicles.  By enhancing the current vehicle automated controllers, and ensuring that users’ expectations and preferences are considered, we hope to improve the uptake of these vehicles by a larger cross-section of the public, whilst also helping to improve road safety”.

Read more about Government support for driverless vehicle projects and about ITS research on connected and automated vehicles.


Call for paper for the special issue: Concepts and methods on informality in urban transport across world regions

International Network for Transport and Accessibility in Low Income Communities (INTALInC) – read more at https://intalinc.wordpress.com


Building on a set of original papers, this special issue seeks to establish an account of the state-of-the-art of which concepts and methods are applied for what topics/aspects of informality in urban transport, an in-depth review of selected specific methods and their application in the field and the identification of their strengths and limitations, and the identification of lessons and directions for future research on the subject.

If you would like further information, please click here or contact the guest editor below.

Time Line:

End of June 2017: deadline for submission of draft papers to the guest editors

Submission Method:

Please submit your papers to the guest editors for the first round of review.

1) Prof. Dr. Dirk Heinrichs : dirk.heinrichs@dlr.de
2) Prof. Dr. Barbara Lenz: barbara.lenz@dlr.de

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Recognising uncertainty is not the same as accepting it


This week saw the first evidence session of the Commission on Travel Demand bringing together stakeholders from local and national government, academia and industry to discuss approaches to understanding demand in the sector. It ended with a debate on whether forecasting as had its day. The motion was defeated but that is not the same as saying we don’t need to re-examine the practice of thinking about travel demand in the future.
Robin Hickman shared the following image on uncertainty, time and techniques that match to the space you are operating in.


In the transport sector we largely deploy forecasting and, even where we use scenarios to think about different policy options, we return to making our decisions based on estimates of demand derived from a forecasting approach. Such an approach seems likely to risk biasing prioritisation of options towards those that are most compatible with the trends which underpin…

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Cutting-edge research showcased to Secretary of State

The Secretary of State for Transport visited the Institute today to hear about our cutting-edge research, which is helping the sector become more accessible, efficient and productive.

“I’m confident that Leeds University students will play  
a huge part in shaping a modern transport system for the future” Chris Grayling, Secretary of State

In a two hour visit Chris Grayling opened the new £4m ITS building, which provides a new modern research and teaching space. Enhanced spaces have been created for PhD and post-doctoral researchers, to ensure that the University is supporting emerging talent alongside its world-class professors.


The investment is part of the University’s wider £520m development plan, to create a world-class campus for research and teaching.  The new building also marks 50 years since the discipline of transport studies was first established at Leeds.

During his visit to the University, Mr Grayling met with leading researchers and was told about how among other successes ITS research has informed efficiency targets for Network Rail and the safety ratings of cars used by Euro NCAP.

Professor Richard Batley, Director of ITS said:  “The latest generation of ITS professors cover topics reflective of the highly complex nature of our modern transport system, and we consistently strive to create new knowledge which benefits the public and private sectors. It was important to be able to explain our work to the Secretary of State, and to show how it can have a real impact on society.”

Mr Grayling was able to see first-hand how ITS research is addressing society’s transport needs in the face of rapid changes in environment, economics and demographics.

ITS researchers had the opportunity to showcase ongoing research projects such as DISRUPTION; a project aiming to reduce the energy use and associated greenhouse gas emissions from the transport sector by looking at people’s mobility, including their travel and use of computers and mobile phones.

Other projects included research into safer cycling, climate change, energy security, technology and human factors in transport. Mr Grayling also watched a demonstration of a pedestrian simulator, which allows researchers to gather real time data on people interacting with their environment while walking.

Mr Grayling said: “We want to encourage young people to take up the many exciting and cutting-edge careers in transport, and I’m very grateful to have the chance to open the Institute for Transport Studies. 

“What I’ve seen today of the research being done – there is something for everyone in this department. There is work that will influence local authority and national government, and can get businesses thinking about how to improve efficiency and safety.

“I’m confident that Leeds University students will play a huge part in shaping a modern transport system for the future, and I wish them the best of luck with their important work.”

Mr Grayling also heard about the University’s recently announced major investment in a new Institute for High Speed Rail Engineering. He met Peter Woodward, professor of high speed rail engineering, and Professor Lisa Roberts, Deputy Vice-Chancellor: Research and Innovation, to discuss its likely impact.




Professor Roberts said: “These are exciting times for transport policy and planning in the UK, and our world class Institute for Transport Studies is ideally placed to help shape this agenda and deliver innovative solutions. The investment in a new Institute for High Speed Rail Engineering at Leeds comes at a time when the UK and other countries are investing heavily in revolutionising their rail networks; in the UK alone the HS2 plans are ambitious and transformational. 

“Our new institute will bring together several of our leading research groups in ITS, our Faculty of Engineering, Leeds Institute for Data Analytics and other external partners to develop the engineering, economic and broader inter-disciplinary research programmes that will support the development of a modern railway system in the UK and around the world.”

Professor Batley added: “The Institute for Transport Studies is the UK’s largest single academic group providing transport courses and training.

“Our new building will enable enhanced interactions between the Institute’s students, staff and industry partners; furthering our mission to advance the understanding of transport activity, operations and use, and to develop skills and best practice among transport professionals and decision-makers.” 

The event was also attended by key industry representatives from HS2, Department for Transport, Transport Systems Catapult, Leeds City Council and West Yorkshire Combined Authority, all of whom work closely with ITS staff and students.



Motor fuel price increases in the UK: who will lose the most?

Transport and energy affordability in the uk

Fuel prices at the pump, which had been declining since 2014, have recently started to increase again, as a result of changes in the oil price market and sterling devaluation since Brexit. They are expected to increase even further in 2017 as part of a general trend towards higher inflation in the UK.

If prices were to increase significantly, many British households would find it hard to cope. Household budgets are already under strain and, for many, a car is necessary to reach work, shops and other basic activities of daily life. For some, it will be possible to ‘shift’ to alternative modes of travel, but this is by no means always the case.

In our work for the (t)ERES research project, we have developed an indicator to map vulnerability to fuel price increases in England. Details about the method and findings can be read in a conference paper available on this website and in the…

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EMPOWER ‘Living Lab’ Competition

Competition to find the final EMPOWER Living Lab

In order to deliver ambitious roll-out plans for international ‘Living Labs’, the EU EMPOWER project has launched a competition to find a final UK-based Living Lab (large scale real-life implementation of positive incentives to reduce the use of conventionally fuelled vehicles).

EMPOWER is now inviting proposals from any City authority, community authority or Corporate organisation to provide a Living Lab Demonstration, with a deadline of 3rd March 2017 for applications.


EMPOWER is about the use of positive incentives such as information, points, discounts, rewards, community support and games, rather than charging, pricing, rationing, restrictions and regulation. Smart devices (phones and tablets) will allow two-way information flow between the travelling public and transport authorities, including the ability to offer tailored incentives relevant to the individuals travel patterns.

The UK Living Lab stakeholders will develop and deliver the actual implementation with the help of funding from the EMPOWER budget of up to £80k, and support from the EMPOWER consortium in areas such as evaluation methods, business models and design of incentives schemes.  The EMPOWER ICT tools will also be available for use in the Living Lab (see http://mobility-apps.eu).

We expect the UK Living Lab to be ambitious in scale and in line with a real-life implementation rather than a research study, involving circa 40,000 participants each. The Living Lab should take place from 1st May 2017 and end with final delivery on 31st January 2018.  Contact Professor Susan Grant-Muller for further information about the competition and the EMPOWER project.

Read more about the applications process: http://empowerproject.eu/articles/competition-living-lab

About the EMPOWER concept
EMPOWER  is about rewarding change. We are driving research and innovation on how positive incentives can encourage citizens to reconsider their travel choices and reduce the extent to which they travel using conventionally fuelled vehicles (CFV). Rewarding change also means rewarding a shift to travelling in off-peak hours, sharing, and schemes to help people avoid travelling altogether.

The EMPOWER ICT services are being developed using a variety of app-based solutions from Mobidot and Pocketweb, such as Move Smarter, Commute Greener, and more to operate on Smart devices.

The EMPOWER concept and mobility services are being trialled in large scale ‘Living Labs’ involving members of the public in the cities of Enschede (Netherlands), Gothenburg (Sweden), Helsinki (Finland) and in the UK. In addition, Take-Up Cities are rolling out the Living Lab concepts in Milan, Odense, Budapest, Reading, Newcastle, Antwerp and Bologna. The Living Labs have already started work and the EMPOWER ICT services are mature.