While many of us realize that drastic steps may be necessary in order to reduce the greenhouse gas emissions from our automobiles, the idea of giving up the actual act of driving to machinery and computers seems a bit far-fetched. Still, with lane-departure warnings, blind-spot warnings and adaptive cruise control already on the market, not to mention self-parking cars, who knows what the future holds? None of these new technologies would ever be possible without a great deal of research and development, however, and there is a new center in the U.K. being set up just for this purpose. The innovITS – ADVANCE research center promises the ability for "telecommunications, electronics and automotive industries, as well as... highways authorities and operators throughout Europe," to cooperate in a controlled and safe environment, according to Phil Pettitt, chief executive officer of innovITS. The first phase is said to replicate a city driving environment and is schedule to open next year. Details after the break.


Press Release:

New R&D centre to accelerate next-generation transport technologies

Plans were revealed today for 'innovITS – ADVANCE', a futuristic research and development centre to be based in the UK. The new facility will enable customers from the telecommunications, automotive and electronics industries, as well as highways authorities and operators, to develop, test and validate future transport technologies in a safe highly controlled environment. By facilitating innovation in co-operative vehicle, highway and telecommunications technologies, innovITS – ADVANCE aims to reduce accidents, improve environmental efficiency and help to alleviate traffic congestion through the efficient and intelligent interaction of vehicles and highway infrastructure

The new R&D centre is the result of a collaboration between innovITS, the UK centre of excellence in Intelligent Transport Systems (ITS) and technologies for sustainable mobility, MIRA Ltd, one of the world's leading automotive test and development organisations, who will host the new centre at its headquarters in Warwickshire, and TRL, the UK's Transport Research Laboratory. A detailed design and planning study is underway and is due to be completed in August 2008 prior to the start of construction of the first phase of the development. The entire innovITS – ADVANCE project represents an investment of approximately €30m over five phases, the first of which is scheduled to open for business in late summer 2009.

Connecting vehicles, highways and telecommunications is widely seen as the key to ensuring a safe, efficient, environmentally sustainable and affordable road transport system for the future. However, the development and implementation of products and systems based on ITS technologies cuts across many long-standing industrial and governmental boundaries, requiring parallel innovations in the areas of telecommunications networks, roadside infrastructure, traffic management and on-board vehicle electronics monitoring and control systems. innovITS – ADVANCE will offer the ability to replicate a wide range of real-world traffic scenarios – including, for example, complex urban bi-directional flows – any of which may be subjected to numerous traffic control systems and strategies.

Each of the test circuits of innovITS Advance will be comprehensively instrumented with telecommunications networks including 2G, 3G, GPRS, WiFi, roadside beacons and monitoring systems such as inductive loops, and accurate position monitoring technologies including differential GPS and in the future, Galileo based systems. All of these telecommunications and electronic monitoring systems will be capable of being controlled precisely and individually by the centre's customers in order to thoroughly test new telematics-based innovations in any potential operating environment that may be encountered in real-world application.

The facility will provide a robust, highly controllable and safe testing environment. As such it will enable telecommunications operators, electronics companies, automakers, highways operators and other key ITS stakeholders to test and develop new ITS systems and technologies in a purpose-built facility, hence accelerating their path to market and providing considerable benefits for business, transport users as well as the public at large.

The first phase of development will involve the construction of a 'city' circuit. This extensive network of roads, traffic islands, roundabouts and controlled intersections will enable engineers to replicate the challenges of almost any European urban environment. Despite the significant size of innovITS – ADVANCE (the 'city' circuit alone will be based on a footprint of approximately 120,000 square metres) the entire facility will be infill development within the existing envelope of the MIRA site.

Examples of the type of projects, which might be carried out by innovITS – ADVANCE customers, include:

* Collision avoidance and mitigation
* Driver behaviour studies
* Intersection safety
* Vulnerable road user detection
* Telematics robustness in poor reception areas
* Road sign detection
* Traffic management
* Advanced driver assistance systems (ADAS)
* Time/distance position based charging
* Autonomous vehicle

Commenting on today's announcement Phil Pettitt, chief executive officer of innovITS said: "innovITS – ADVANCE is an exciting development for the collaborating organisations in this project and its potential customers in the telecommunications, electronics and automotive industries, as well as among highways authorities and operators throughout Europe. We would particularly encourage potential customers of the centre to contact us now to share their views regarding the detailed design of the facility to ensure that their requirements are fully addressed. Our ultimate aim is that innovITS – ADVANCE will become the international centre for connecting vehicles, highways and telecommunications, thus facilitating the more rapid introduction of intelligent transport technologies, with considerable benefits for industry and for society as a whole."

[Source: innovITS]

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