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Milton Keynes to see driverless cars within 18 months

By: Information Daily Staff Writer
Published: Monday, March 31, 2014 - 09:55 GMT Jump to Comments

Milton Keynes may see driverless cars on its roads in 12-18 months, says Geoff Snelson, Strategy Director of MK Smart, the innovation programme being run in the city.

The driverless two-person pods are one of the outputs of the MK Smart programme, which is a collaboration between a number of organisations including the Open University (located in Milton Keynes) and BT.

They will hit speeds of 12mph gliding along pavements, and use sensors to avoid hitting pedestrians. GPS technology will enable the battery-driven two-person “pods” to steer round objects, people and each other.

The £2-a-trip pods will be paid for, and hailed, using a mobile app. They are expected to be implemented by 2015, with a 100-strong fleet fully operational in the following two years. 

Central to the project is the creation of the ‘MK Data Hub’, which will support the acquisition and management of vast amounts of data relevant to city systems from a variety of data sources.

As well as transport data, these will include data about energy and water consumption, data acquired through satellite technology, social and economic datasets, and crowd-sourced data from social media or specialised apps.

Building on the capability provided by the MK Data Hub, the project will innovate in the areas of transport, energy and water management, tackling key demand issues.

As Snelson explains in an interview with the Information Daily at the Personal Information Economy 2014 event on 21 March, people will interact with services via a citizens ‘card’ – not a physical card but rather an app that will enable them to ‘pay’ for services, access information, and provide their own data back to the MK Hub.

The resulting benefits include the ability to plan journeys in the most efficient way, avoiding congestion and maximizing fuel efficiency.

Alan Ward, Head of Corporate ICT at BT research Laboratories, said that Milton Keynes is providing a test bed for the many possibilities arising from the "internet of things".

With millions of sensors now tracking movement and collecting data all around the world, the Milton Keynes project is providing an important reference site to test out some of the implications for citizens and businesses.

BT are deploying the data hub and the community ‘spine’ that will distribute the data to citizens to help them make decisions.

One of the challenges of projects based on the 'internet of things' is the need to build collaboration with a wide range of partners. At three to four months, it is still early days.

The project, however, builds on earlier ‘smart city’ work - sponsored by the Department for Business and Skills - which raised various challenges, including those around the handling of citizen data, and also how to generate business value from the new technologies, data and associated developments.

If developers are to use the data to build useful applications, they need to be able to access it easily, John Davies, BT’s Head of Semantic Technology, explained.

Interoperability is also an issue, he says, because there will be data hubs springing up everywhere and data users may want to combine datasets from these different sources.

It will also be important to take account of consumers’ attitudes. They need to be comfortable with sharing their data; they will need know where it is going to be held, and what uses will be made of it.

"If we can be clear about this, then the benefits to the consumer will outweigh any concerns they may have", he said.

The Crtl-Shift Personal Information Economy 2014 event was an opportunity to unlock the benefits of personal information management and trusted data sharing, by exploring the opportunities and implications of the new information-rich digital economy.

Read more about this year's event:

Business scents ‘boom’ in personal information economy

Organisations must respond to the public’s anxieties on data privacy

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