Microlise: ‘Big data can help freight sector boost road safety in urban areas’

The freight sector is on the verge of harnessing the power of big data to boost the safety and efficiency of their fleet movements in urban areas, according to telematics firm Microlise.

Speaking ahead of his appearance at next week’s Freight in the City Expo in London, Matthew Hague, executive director of product strategy, said: “We will see big data being used by transport service providers in our towns and cities within months, using it to improve the efficiency and safety of freight vehicle movements.”

He added: “Operators will gain the ability to accurately predict risk based on time of day and conditions, enabling street by street profiling.

“It will enable transport service providers to limit risk, thereby potentially reducing insurance costs and disruption to fleets and drivers.”

Microlise has been exploring the capabilities of using big data in fleet technology through a series of research projects over the past two years, supported by government funding.

The company already captures several billion miles worth of road data each year, however it said putting this vast amount of information to good use can be the challenging part.

“How to glean useful information from an ocean of data is a challenge, but new technologies and techniques are enabling us to scale up and process large data sets in a quick and agile way,” said Hague.

One of Microlise’s Innovate UK-funded projects, in partnership with the University of Nottingham, was to achieve customer and market value from high volumes of complex data generated through real-time telematics.

This has now been completed and Microlise said it will soon be in a position to incorporate this research into new products designed for the freight sector.

Innovate UK: ‘Embracing new technology helps freight operators stay competitive’

Freight operators must keep pace with emerging technology to remain competitive, according to the newly appointed ultra-low-emission vehicle lead at Innovate UK.

Speaking to Freightinthecity.com, Venn Chesterton said the growing number of competing demands on the freight sector – such as CO2 reduction, air quality regulations and on-demand deliveries – mean operators need to innovate to remain viable.

“You simply cannot be the operator you were a few years ago and survive in this market,” he added. “Operators are now looking for things to help differentiate themselves from their competitors.”

Chesterton was appointed to Innovate UK – the government’s innovation agency – in October to help support the UK automotive industry’s transition towards ultra-low-emission vehicles.

“There are so many drivers out there pushing people towards an ultra low-emission vehicle,” he said.

“Whether it’s cities or countries putting in plans to ban the sale of diesel vehicles, or to charge significant amounts to enter a city, it’s all coming forward.”

Ultra-low-emission passenger cars have already started to see market penetration, and Chesterton believes a similar pattern is now emerging for the freight industry.

“The technology is rising and is finding its way into the freight sector,” he said.

“There are some real, genuine alternatives to the ICE available right now, as well as a lot of R&D happening from a technology point of view: for example, batteries have become more energy dense and gas engines are able to run at a higher torque.”

However, such technology is more challenging to develop for the freight sector due to the complex specification of many commercial vehicles designed for specific job functions.

Chesterton will be talking about the UK’s leading automotive R&D work at Freight in the City Expo on 7 November in London, a conference and exhibition dedicated to sustainable urban deliveries (pictured).

He said: “Over the past three years, Freight in the City Expo has really established itself as an important event for the industry.

“Operators want to differentiate  themselves from their competitors and events like this give people the opportunity to keep pace with industry.”

UK start-ups urged to tackle transport challenges through Intelligent Mobility Accelerator

Start-up businesses are being encouraged to tackle key urban transport challenges, such as congestion, emissions and road safety, through a new scheme announced yesterday at the Cenex-LCV event.

The Intelligent Mobility Accelerator will focus on areas such as connected and autonomous vehicles, connected infrastructure and transport data and analysis.

It is designed to attract disruptive start-ups with high growth potential into the UK transport industry.

The new programme is a partnership between Transport Systems Catapult and Wayra UK, supported by ThoughtWorks and Network Rail.

Businesses accepted to the accelerator will receive a six-month support programme.

Transport Systems Catapult CEO Paul Campion said: “Transport is currently going through a revolutionary period driven by digital, connected and autonomous technology.

“Up until now British entrepreneurs wanting to exploit these opportunities have needed to go it alone. We must support new UK businesses now, so we can take a lead on the world stage and create high-quality jobs and growth for our economy.”

He added: “ There are no other accelerators in the UK which cover the full range of potential Intelligent Mobility solutions, and we hope to give these businesses a doorway into this £900bn global market.”

Gary Stewart, director of Wayra UK, said: “Through this innovative programme, we hope to support the development of the next generation of transport systems breakthroughs and contribute further to making the UK the best place in the world to scale a transport start-up.”

If you are interested in applying for a place at the IM Accelerator, or would like to help support the programme contact IMAccelerator@ts.catapult.org.uk.

First vehicles now ready for £20m Low Emission Freight and Logistics Trial

Vehicles taking part in the first two projects from the government’s £20m Low Emission Freight and Logistic Trial  are now ready to hit the roads.

In January this year, funding was announced for 20 firms that came up with innovate ways to deploy more low- and zero-emission freight vehicles in UK fleets.

The first two projects – the Dedicated to Gas trial and the KERS-Urban Consortium – are now ready to roll, with the rest of the schemes to be in operation by mid-2018.

In total, more than 300 low-emission vehicles will be taking part.

Led by Air Liquide, the Dedicated to Gas trial will see large fleet operators including Kuehne + Nagel, Wincanton, Asda, Brit European, Howard Tenens and Great Bear trial the effectiveness of 81 dedicated gas-powered HGVs new to the UK market as well as five new cryogenic transport refrigeration units.

The KERS-Urban consortium will trial a new hybrid kinetic energy recovery system on 20 HGVs operated by Howdens Joinery Group and Sainsbury’s Supermarkets, including both rigid and articulated HGVs.

Supplied by Alternatech, the hybrid KERS technology (pictured) will recover energy during braking and then use the energy during acceleration, which will reduce fuel consumption and emissions, particularly in city environments.

Simon Edmonds, manufacturing and materials director at Innovate UK, said: “It is excellent news that the first two projects of this pioneering trial are now roadworthy.

“The data from these trials will be invaluable to future development and commercialisation of these low carbon technologies for low-emission freight and fleet vehicles.”

Alongside the competition, TRL have been appointed to evaluate performance of the trials and capture data on the emissions savings produced, with results to appear on a dedicated website.

John Rogerson, fleet operations manager, Asda, said: “We are excited to work with Air Liquide and our other project partners to hopefully demonstrate the impact low-emissions HGV technology can have on the entire industry, while infusing the latest technology into our fleet and reducing our overall carbon footprint.”

Charlie Nissen, national transport manager of Howdens Joinery Group, said: “The trailer KERS innovation allows us to be involved in the forefront of a technology that could have the potential to reduce carbon emissions from HGVs, not just within Howdens, but across the industry.”



Government funding of £35m up for grabs for low-carbon vehicle technology

Businesses are invited to bid for a share of a £35m funding pot to develop low-carbon vehicle technology.

The Advanced Propulsion Centre (APC) competition is open to consortia that can deliver projects to significantly reduce CO2 emissions and strengthen the UK’s position on low-carbon vehicle technology.

Projects include at least one vehicle manufacturer or main supplier, as well as an SME.

Areas that will be supported include:

  • alternative propulsion systems
  • electric machines and power electronics
  • energy storage and energy management
  • lightweight vehicle and powertrain structures
  • thermal propulsion systems

Total project costs are anticipated to range in size from £5m to £40m, with a duration of between 18 and 42 months. Businesses can bid for up to 70% of their total project costs

Registration is now open, with a deadline of noon on 20 September.

In January, the government launched a competition to support low-emission freight and logistics trials.



£20m available for electric vehicle-to-grid projects

Innovate UK has committed £20m for innovative projects that develop future electric vehicle-to-grid products, services and knowledge.

Vehicle-to-grid techniques could enable electric vehicle owners to offer electricity to the grid, or for other uses in exchange for financial or other benefits.

As the fleet of electric and plug-in hybrid ultra-low emission vehicles grows, Innovate UK said this “important and rapidly developing area of technology has the potential to benefit electric vehicle users and to support a more flexible, efficient electricity system”.

Grant funding is available for three types of innovation projects:

The deadline for bids is 18 October.


Making the switch to electric freight vehicles could save London £900m by 2021

Switching 10% of London’s current truck and van fleet from diesel to electric by 2021 could save the capital £900m in reduced health impact and abatement costs, researchers have calculated.

Such a move would also shave 402 tonnes of NOx, 3.8 tonnes of particulate matter and 284,000 tonnes of greenhouse gas from the capital’s streets (see box below).

The results were presented at the final Frevue conference last week (21 June) – a four-and-a-half year EU scheme to assess the viability of electric freight vehicles in towns and cities.

Three uptake scenarios for electric freight vehicles:

Low – 10% of all freight traffic electrified
• Medium – 50% of all freight traffic  electrified
• High – 100% of all freight traffic electrified

Low penetration level (10%), 2021:
• NOx reduction of 402 tonnes
• PM reduction of 3.8 tonnes
• Local GHG savings of 284,000 tonnes CO2e

High penetration level (100%), 2031:
• NOx reduction of 2,500 tonnes
• PM reduction of 16 tonnes
• Local GHG savings of 2. 9 tonnes CO2e

Professor John Polak, director of the Urban System Laboratory at Imperial College London, undertook research to assess the environmental impact of electric trucks.

This included direct results from the Frevue vehicles taking part in the trial, traffic modelling to assess future impact depending on electric freight vehicle uptake levels, and the resulting cost savings to be realised.

Social impact

Polak’s research also looked at the wider social impact and attitudes towards electric freight vehicles.

He surveyed hundreds of participants from the eight Frevue partner cities: Amsterdam, Lisbon, London, Madrid, Milan, Oslo, Rotterdam and Stockholm.

This included feedback from drivers and fleet managers, through to end customers and infrastructure providers. Some key conclusions found that:

  • Drivers found electric vehicles to be a positive experience, enjoying the instant power, quietness and simple operation.
  • Only 15% of drivers reported any range anxiety, which was due in the main to a low state of charge at the end of their delivery routes and a reduction in performance during cold weather.
  • Fleet managers found the electric vehicles integrated easily into existing depot routines, with good reliability reported for electric vans and improved reliability for larger electric trucks after an initial trial and error period.
  • Around half of logistics firms surveyed said they have committed to more electric freight vehicles in the short-term due to positive experiences, however, 30% said there is no plan as “better products are needed”.
  • Others planned to deploy more electric vehicles as part of a wider fleet decarbonisation strategy, looking at suitability of all alternative fuels, infrastructure, financial incentives and policy.

Polak’s full research presentation is available on Frevue’s website.


Real-world electric freight vehicle data presented at final Frevue conference

More than 200 city logistics stakeholders headed to London’s Guildhall last week (21 June) to attend the final Frevue conference.

The EU project, led by the Cross River Partnership, has been running for four-and-a-half years to explore the viability of electric freight vehicles (EFVs) in urban environments.

Operators and public sector officials from eight major European cities have taken part in the project: Amsterdam, Lisbon, London, Madrid, Milan, Oslo, Rotterdam and Stockholm.

A range of 80-plus electric freight vehicles from car-derived vans up to 18-tonne trucks have been trialled in real-world operations, with data recorded over 757,000km.

Individual trials looked at everything from driver comfort through to battery performance and charging requirements for a multi-vehicle fleet.

Key findings from the event include:
• EFVs are well suited to inner city operations;
• The range of EFVs on the market today is sufficient for most operations;
• Good driver acceptability and comfort to operate;
• Zero tailpipe emissions, with strong health benefits
Significant cost savings for cities through reduced health and abatement costs

Some challenges still to be overcome, include:
• Limited vehicle supply, particularly at the larger end of the vehicle scale;
• For larger electric trucks, the business case is hard to make at present, although for small and medium EFVs they are already a cost-viable alternative to diesel. Larger trucks will continue to become more cost-effective as more players enter the market and battery technology is enhanced.

You can find case studies and useful guidance documents about all the city projects conducted through the programme on the Frevue website, as well as download all the slides and findings from the final conference.

Make sure to also sign the Frevue Declaration of Intent, which aims to provide solid proof to manufacturers of the desire from industry that demand exists for EFVs.

To date, more than 38 have been signed by organisations, representing 5,075 vans and 4,180 trucks.

Innovate UK project to develop autonomous driving system for Charge electric trucks

Charge Automotive has won Innovate UK backing to help develop autonomous driving functionality for its new range of electric freight vehicles.

Dubbed Robopilot, the project will see Charge leading a consortium (see box, below) to bring autonomous racing technology to the light commercial vehicle market.

Robopilot combines input from sensors around the vehicle – such as radars, cameras, ultrasonics and lidars (light sensors to measure the distance to a target object) – with mapping, artificial intelligence and fleet information, which is then acted on by autonomous software.

The technology has already undergone “rigorous simulation, internal testing as well as public demonstrations”, according to Victoria Tomlinson, head of PR & communications at Charge Automotive.

She added: “The road environment is complex: simulation, verification and validation, and physical testing in controlled environments, in conjunction with our project partners, will take place before road trials begin.”

Robopilot features in the second wave of projects from a £35m joint Centre for Connected & Autonomous Vehicles and Innovate UK competition launched last autumn.

The Oxfordshire-based firm plans to bring a range of affordable, zero-emission freight trucks to the market that will be priced in line with traditional diesel counterparts.

Earlier this month, Charge signed a 15-year lease on a manufacturing facility in Banbury Cross, with the first trucks in the 3.5-tonne to 26-tonne range expected to roll off the production line later this year.

Commenting on the recent competition funding, Tomlinson told Freight in the City: “It is great to be at the forefront of the advancement of driverless technology in the UK and for that to be acknowledged by Innovate UK.”

Charge Automotive is backed by investment firm Kinetik.

Consortium partners

  • Charge Automotive
  • UPS UK
  • Thales UK
  • Loughborough University
  • University of Bristol
  • University of West of England
  • South Gloucesterhire Council
  • Test and Verification Solutions
  • AXA UK


Autonomous Cargopod delivers for Ocado

A trial of a fully autonomous electric-powered vehicle – dubbed the Cargopod – conducting last-mile deliveries for Ocado in Greenwich concludes on Monday (3 July).

The vehicle, which has a payload of 128kg and requires two employees to accompany it at all times, has delivered groceries to more than 100 customers so far. Its use, however, has been limited to the Royal Arsenal development in the London borough, which has no public highways.

It was developed in partnership with Oxford-based artificial intelligence firm Oxbotica, and is part of a trial led by Transport Research laboratory (TRL) and its Gateway project (standing for Greenwich Automated Transport Environment).

David Sharp, head of Ocado’s 10x department (Sharp explained its 10x department aims to make things “ten times better”), said the trial was designed to take autonomous commercial vehicle technology to the “edge of what is practical”.

He also explained that the technology behind the CargoPod – particularly its software platform Selenium – could be scaled up to larger commercial vehicles to improve the payload capacity.

Simon Tong, principal research scientist at TRL and technical lead for the Gateway project, added: “This trial with Ocado Technology provides an ideal platform to help us understand how and where these vehicles could best operate and whether people would accept, trust and like them as an automated delivery service in the city.

“We envisage that cities could benefit massively if deliveries could be made by quiet, zero emission, automated vehicles when congestion is minimal,” he said.

And here is a great video explaining how it works: