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Using Intelligent Transport Systems to Clean the Air

Air Quality & Transport

Air quality and transport go hand-in-hand. Road transport using petrol or diesel fuel are large contributors to the number of particulates and gases in the air, such as Nitrogen Oxide (NO), Nitrogen Dioxide (NO2) and Particulate Matter (PM2.5), all of which contribute to exceeded UK air quality targets and more importantly, irreversible health problems. With the UK’s car ownership reaching around 40 million, this has been met with a rise in toxic emissions albeit partially stunted due to the coronavirus lockdown. The increase in car ownership could be met with a rise in pollution related deaths, which is around 4.2 million every year.

With that said, the threat of rising vehicle usage and traffic has led to introductions of mobility-focussed policies and interventions to reduce air pollution and get back on track to meet guidelines set by the EU. Developing and implementing Intelligent Transport Systems (ITS) is a key method to resolving these issues - transport related solutions, often offered with technologies, hardware, and software, that can provide efficient transportation methods for future decisions with scope of large-scale emission reductions.

Integrating Air Quality Technology with ITS to Clean the Air

Intelligent Transport Systems are tools that can be used to improve air quality by changing behaviours around how we travel. Implementing strategies like re-routing traffic to avoid pollution hotspots or using geofencing to send alerts to vehicles to switch to electric mode means businesses can take control and integrate their technologies with air quality technology to minimise growing congestion and emission related problems.

Utilising ITS in conjunction with air pollution data means companies are able to understand the impact human behaviour has on air quality and health. This data can help to identify areas regularly experiencing poor air quality due to factors such as regular traffic build-up in cities, and for testing mitigations to evidence their impact on emissions. Implementing such initiatives means transport can become safer and cleaner for human health.

Zephyr® Sensor Attached to Traffic Light Infrastructure

We’re working alongside a number of companies using ITS by integrating Zephyr® air quality sensor data into existing transport management systems to provide real-time pollutant information with emission data. Combined data can be used in a number of ways, much like Coventry City Council who use measured air quality data to display breached pollution levels to motorists and provide alternative routes via VMS, easing pressures at pollution hotspots.

We also recently partnered with Siemens Mobility, who are using Zephyr® sensors mounted to traffic light infrastructure. Mounting Zephyr® sensors to traffic lights means that we’re able to collate real-time pollution data from vehicles throughout whole cities or even just hotspot junctions. Integrating air quality data with the Siemens Mobility Stratos traffic strategy manager allows users to identify the changing levels of pollution, which is used to inform meaningful and timely traffic flow interventions.

The EarthSense MappAir® model is also used to support ITS to reduce air pollution. MappAir® modelled air quality data is be fed into traffic management systems to provide pollution forecasts and allows users to understand how pollution will disperse and flow throughout different locations and scenarios within whole cities. This information helps to identify how factors such as traffic build-up or light sequencing may impact air quality levels. It could also be used in a way similar to our work on the NEVFMA project, which uses a traffic modelling in conjunction with Zephyr® and MappAir® data to provide users with different traffic-based scenarios and real-time pollution data, so future traffic decisions can be made to reduce emissions.

MappAir® model for Oxfordshire County Council & NEVFMA

Travel Post Covid-19 with ITS & Pollution Information

The Coronavirus pandemic has changed the way we live, as many have been working from home, going out less and travelling less than pre-pandemic. This has meant with less vehicles on the roads, pollution levels have reached safer levels around the planet. It’s important to take learnings from this experience and for people to consider how they choose to travel in future.

Even more importantly, recent studies suggest a link between Covid19 and particulate levels, with a 1 µg/m3 increase in PM2.5 potentially contributing to a 10% increase in infections, and a 15% increase in Coronavirus related deaths. This means around 14,248 cases and 2,736 deaths could occur, equating to around 5% of cases and deaths attributable to PM2.5 pollutant concentrations.

The research suggests that it’s increasingly crucial to introduce measures to reduce particulate pollution for Covid related risks, and ITS interventions may be one of many solutions to keeping these down. Road transport contributes significantly to PM2.5 levels, in London road transport accounts for around 30% of local PM2.5 emissions and elsewhere, roadside exposure is often much higher than those in background locations. It’s time to see changes, such as introductions of bike lanes, switching to electric vehicles, road closures and manipulating traffic flow happen as soon as possible to help us have cleaner, safer air quality.

Do you work in the transport sector and want to learn more about how our air quality services can help you?

Visit or speak to an expert on +44 (0)116 296 2460.



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