A brighter and greener future for Buckinghamshire

The programme, managed and developed by the Association of Directors of Environment, Economy, Planning & Transport (ADEPT), is set to develop new SMART approaches across communications, materials, energy solutions and mobility. Projects range from harvesting renewable energy from roads and innovative data analytics to using plastics in road surfacing treatment.

Buckinghamshire County Council is one of nine local authorities to run one of the innovative projects. David Aimson, data and digital delivery team leader at Buckinghamshire County Council talks about how his local authority is focused on creating a SMART, connected community in Aylesbury Garden Town.

Buckinghamshire’s Live Labs Project is looking at new and emerging transport technology which we will be trialling on the streets of Aylesbury. This is a broad scope and includes work on smart road technology, transport data and renewable energy. Live Labs is about testing real technology, in real scenarios, with the aim of sharing our learning with other local authorities, so that real change can be adopted rapidly.

Underpinning all our work is the environment, ensuring the trials make a real impact on traffic congestion and air quality control, reduce costs and have the capability of generating sustainable energy.

The inspiration behind the Buckinghamshire project is the vision for Aylesbury Garden Town, creating a centre where innovation is at the heart, ensuring that new approaches to technology and data are woven into new developments.

Work includes developing ‘smart’ lamp-posts, moulded from recycled composite materials. The idea is that they last longer, are cheaper to manufacture, can accommodate sensors to collect and measure data such as air quality, detect noise and take surface temperatures. Importantly, the taller smart lamp-posts will generate sustainable energy, with additional functionality to support solar panels and wind turbines.

We are also trialling road surfacing that generates energy from moving vehicles. These road surfaces work by generating energy from the weight and friction of vehicles passing over them, enabling roadside batteries to be charged to power streetlights, or provide electricity to sell to the National Grid. To do this, energy harvester systems (EHS) will be designed, fabricated and evaluated at Lancaster University before they are implemented in Aylesbury

Our other focus is on testing roadside sensors, to capture real-time data about traffic movements, weather conditions and guide driverless cars. These will be able to monitor the condition of roads, traffic conditions, vehicle speeds, vehicle types and traffic flow.

Another key part of the project is the production of a feasibility study on semi-autonomous and autonomous vehicles and what local authorities need to do to future-proof their communities to adapt to this technology. We are working with Connected Catapult to produce this study, which is due for publication in spring / summer 2020.

Other aspects include introducing a new electric bike system in partnership with Chiltern Railways. This new system will allow visitors to use green transport to travel to the largest tourist attraction in the area, the National Trust’s Waddesdon Manor, via train, then electric bike along Waddesdon Greenway, a new five mile cycleway.

As the project progresses, and as digital advances continue, the scope and breadth of the project is changing to encompass new elements. For example, the original plan was to 3D print the lamp-posts, using recycled plastics, but this would not meet the stringent legal requirements. Instead, we are using a plastic composite mould to create the lamp-posts. We are also able to create the lamp-post adornments, such as the decoration, using recycled materials, so we are testing these as part of the project.

By July 2020, we expect most of the new technology to be in place and we will begin analysing and monitoring all the installations. The project is due to end in May 2021 and we will share our knowledge other local authorities, with the public and, crucially, with government. As Live Labs is a DfT funded project, the aim is for the information to feed into national policy, influencing how technology is adopted across the country.

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