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Road safety: Bringing innovation and experience from aerospace

Digital Twin helping to reduce crime and save lives

At first glance, the relevance of aerospace experience to tackling harm on our roads may not be exactly obvious. So let’s firstly consider this point with a few examples:

  • Aircraft ownership and operation spans personal, business and commercial (airline) sectors. Vehicles on the road span the same sectors.
  • Aircraft need be maintained in good condition and are subject to planned periodic checks to ensure safety as well as suffering unscheduled failures that need to be fixed. Vehicles on the road also need to be maintained in good condition and are subject to regular checks. They also suffer unexpected faults and breakdowns that can compromise their operation and potentially result in illegal or unsafe use, or result in disruption on the road network.
  • Aircraft operate in a wide range of weather and climatic conditions and at all times of day and night. Road vehicles do the same.
  • Aircraft operate in a controlled network of often congested airspace, with defined rules and practices. Road vehicles operate on an (increasingly instrumented and congested) road network that similarly has defined rules and practices.
  • Aircraft (mostly), excepting UAVs, have pilots. Pilots need to be trained and qualified – and the performance of commercial pilots is monitored in detail for each flight, through data analytics, to ensure safe operating practices – and action such as retraining may be taken if needed.  Road vehicles (mostly), excepting autonomous vehicles, have drivers – and the drivers are subject to training, testing and more recently, may be monitored through black boxes and smart phone apps.

…and so the list goes on – insurance, taxes, operating licences, accidents and incidents, concerns over environmental impact and fuel efficiency, manufacturer safety recalls – and even down to the mix of nationalities and cultures operating in the same network.  Hopefully, by now you are seeing, at least some, highly relevant similarities.

Importantly, the similarities also extend to data, the types of data that are available and the opportunities to put that data to work to enable important outcomes.  This is where the aerospace industry has much experience to offer.  Regulation and a historically challenging safety record has necessitated the innovative introduction and use of digital data over many years – and in a way that strongly underpinned the delivery of improved results through a safe systems approach.  Today the aerospace industry uses digital data to:

  1. Improve safety – Further reducing serious and fatal accidents.
  2. Improve efficiency – For example, predict events that cause network disruptions (such as the delays or cancellations that we have most likely all suffered at some time).
  3. Increase effectiveness of operations – Ensuring that assets and infrastructure are utilised in the most effective and efficient way.

Here at Tonic we have been successfully providing digital services that positively impact on all three of these areas.  The core for such services is the building of a Big Data set with a variety of data types collected from multiple systems and sources.  Once this data is collected, it can be blended together to provide a rich 360 degree picture upon which modern analytics technologies, such as Artificial Intelligence (AI), can be applied.  The result is actionable information and recommendations that can be used across the supply chain to significantly improve performance, while also enabling the outcome of such actions being measured to identify their impact in terms of key performance indicators and, ultimately, the all-important financial metrics that underpin business cases.

Typically the source data might include:

  • Asset information, such as: Availability; Utilisation; Location; Condition; Temporary Limitations etc.
  • Maintenance operations data, such as: Reported defects; Corrective actions; Part replacements; Part overhaul records; Part history and life usage; Planned maintenance schedule.
  • Flight operations data, such as: Planned and actual flight schedules; Delays; Cancellations; Flight diversions; Flight recorder data; Safety incident reports.
  • Environmental data, such as: Weather conditions; Air quality

The Galileo programme is benefitting from this experience and technology.  Galileo is similarly building a Big Data set from multiple sources that is already demonstrating the benefits of such an approach for policing the roads.  One example is ‘Digital Twin’.

Digital Twin

A Digital Twin is a virtual model of the real world that is built from digital data. This pairing of the virtual and physical worlds allows advanced analysis of data to gain new insights and to unlock the potential to head off problems before they even occur; improve efficiency and effectiveness of operations; find new ways of working and even plan for the future by using simulations.  It’s exactly this approach that is being successfully used for the airline industry today, where the ‘twin’ is centred on the individual aircraft and the ‘through-life’ events that relate to that aircraft.

In the context of policing the roads, the data for building a Digital Twin is also focused around the vehicle and includes information such as: Vehicle design and characteristics; Maintenance events; Usage profiles; Compliance events; Enforcement events; Ownership events and Safety events.

While there are several examples of some of the above information items being shared between organisations today, this currently tends to be ‘on demand’ and very limited in scope.  The Digital Twin project is uniquely bring together data from multiple sources to create a virtual digital model of vehicles and their operating ‘eco-system’.

While this enables a holistic 360 degree view of information relating to the vehicle and its operating ‘eco-system’, the real power of the Digital Twin is that data analytics, including Artificial Intelligence (AI), can be applied to the resulting blended Big Data set, not just for a singular vehicle but across all vehicles.  It is this that enables exciting possibilities to discover new insights.

It is these insights that lead to: Predictive solutions that can enable pre-emptive actions before problems occur; Improved effectiveness and efficiency of resources; The informing of new approaches and ways of working; The identification of risk areas – and even the modelling of the outcome of proposed actions and interventions.

Based on experiences in the aerospace industry, applying this approach for policing the roads provides potential for significant business improvement opportunities such as:

  • It will enable a much richer data analytics capability, leading to an improved operational response to road risk and harm, including criminality.
  • Procedurally just, fact- and evidence-based responses, extensively communicated to the public, will improve confidence in those organisations charged with reducing risk and harm on the roads.
  • Consequently, the societal standing of those working in this arena will be enhanced and the movement in opinion as to the value such effort will be supported by a more engaged and active public. This will lead to improved road safety and compliance, and reduced levels of road risk and crime.

In order to harness the true potential of Digital Twin, Galileo is exploiting it through two channels, with inputs to on-line tools that include a ‘Performance Framework’ and a ‘Tasking Intelligence’ product that are truly innovative and not based on traditional build processes; Galileo is advancing the science here, again introducing proven techniques from the aerospace industry, and elsewhere, to the road risk and harm reduction arena.

Delivery here is also focused on aligning closely to the Safe Systems approach that has been set out by the Department for Transport and adopted by Highways England.  This approach also bears strong similarities to models that are very successfully used in aerospace – and for the Galileo programme, it also aligns with key principles of its remit, which extend to enabling greater collaboration across stakeholders, including the public, while also focusing on behavioural change set against a background of procedural justice.

Working in the pilot areas of Surrey, Sussex and Gloucestershire is allowing the Galileo programme’s strategic concepts to be transformed into meaningful operational outcomes that achieve the shared objectives of Highways England and the National Police Chiefs’ Council (NPCC).

While Galileo’s core remit is to focus on enabling solutions that deliver outcomes at a local level, it is also critical that they are designed to be scalable for deployment on a nationwide basis – and beyond this, the Galileo programme is also linking with nationally focused programmes that are jointly working on topics such as the Single Intelligence Environment (SIE).

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