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Ricardo to use transport location data to improve air quality in global cities

Ricardo has won a national competition to demonstrate the benefits that transport location data can have on urban air quality. The project addresses both the existing vehicle fleet and also extends to long-term improvements in air quality. The award of funding was made by the Geospatial Commission in partnership with Innovate UK.

Ricardo has partnered with UK-based technology company Brightec to develop a smartphone app which will enable hybrid vehicles to sense that they have entered a clean air zone and encourage a switch to electric mode. Ricardo is recruiting taxi drivers in Brighton to trial the app and will use its connected fleet management system—a digital tool which monitors the performance of a fleet of vehicles—to analyze the impact of the app on air quality.

For the project, Ricardo is taking a novel approach that can be applied to existing vehicles to provide immediate benefits to air quality in towns and cities. This immediate delivery of benefits is significant because data from the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders shows that while the number of battery electric vehicles and and plug-in hybrid electric vehicles increased by more than 168,000 units in 2020, they still only account for just 1.3% of the total number of vehicles on the road.

The technology that will be developed for the project will enable drivers with hybrid vehicles to use their electric vehicle mode intelligently using the app, and enable transport authorities to understand the air quality impacts of future mobility solutions.

As well as the national-competition-funded taxi study, Ricardo will extend the research activities to longer-term objectives around improving urban air quality. Ricardo will investigate how data from its proprietary RapidAir air quality dispersion modeling software can be used in conjunction with vehicle and traffic simulations to understand the full impacts of clean air zones.

The impacts on congestion and emissions from brakes and tires will also be captured, and then optimized for greatest effect across a whole geography. Ricardo will also develop a simulation approach to offer an evaluation on future mobility systems: from electrified or zero-emission buses on prescribed routes through to single-person autonomous electric vehicles. These will provide transport authorities with recommendations to reduce emissions and improve air quality.


With many transport authorities reviewing their urban planning costs as they continue to deal with the impacts of the global pandemic, Ricardo will demonstrate how data and insight can provide a holistic, detailed picture of air quality for an individual town or city, to enable cost-effective and insight-driven, sustainable mobility solutions.

This latest funding award will build upon the first phase of the project, undertaken in early 2021, which evaluated the feasibility and benefits of making clean air zones dynamic, rather than fixed, to improve even further the effectiveness of geo-fencing technology.


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