The new research centre launched at the University of Huddersfield’s 3M Buckley Innovation Centre (3M BIC) in collaboration with Kirklees Council and SimplifAI Systems, will focus on creating the next generation of smart city transport technology solutions using Artificial Intelligence (AI)

WITH over half of the world's population now living in cities, and global urbanisation continuing at a steady pace, traffic congestion is becoming an increasingly critical problem. In the UK alone, congestion costs the economy an estimated £8bn each year, in lost time and fuel consumption, while pollution from slow-moving traffic contributes to the deaths of 50,000 people annually. 

Now, a new research centre launched at the University of Huddersfield’s 3M Buckley Innovation Centre (3M BIC) in collaboration with Kirklees Council and SimplifAI Systems, is to focus on creating the next generation of smart city transport technology solutions using Artificial Intelligence (AI).  The pilots will be demonstrated first in West Yorkshire whilst working closely with the Kirklees Council’s traffic control team to control and manage traffic, lessen congestion and improve air quality.  

The 3M BIC is designed for businesses to innovate and facilitate local and regional regeneration and acts as a gateway to the University’s research centres supporting business and academia collaborations and directly impacts the growth of tenants, network members and the wider regional economy.  Being located in the Innovation Centre allows the new ‘Huddersfield AI Transport Research Centre’ to be uniquely placed for collaborating with local businesses, stakeholders and academia. 

“The Huddersfield AI Transport Research Centre provides the ideal ground to demonstrate the beneficial impact of AI on the quality of life of the local community, and foster the use of AI technologies for reducing traffic congestion and pollution in the UK.”

Dr Mauro Vallati, the University of Huddersfield.

The company SimplifAI Systems initially took shape in 2017 after the founder Keith McCabe shared his frustration about the current state of transport technology with the University’s Professor Lee McCluskey at a conference and had heard about the professor’s work with Huddersfield researcher Dr Mauro Vallati using a niche form of AI to solve traffic problems. 

Dr Vallati’s latest research involves the design of a framework able to tackle the critical problems of traffic congestion and environmental issues in urban areas, by generating strategies consisting of, for instance, altering existing traffic light sequences and communicating with vehicles to suggest that they drop speed, change routes to avoid congested areas or switch to electric power. 

A year ago, Dr Vallati received a prestigious UKRI Future Leaders Fellowship for his innovative research into systems driven by AI for urban traffic control.  The four-year Fellowship will enable Dr Vallati to further his work on providing a solution to an issue that affects the UK’s economy and the health of the nation whilst also allowing the University to apply for up to £1.4m in funding for the project. 

Speaking at the launch event of the Centre, Dr Vallati said: “The Huddersfield AI Transport Research Centre provides the ideal ground to demonstrate the beneficial impact of AI on the quality of life of the local community, and foster the use of AI technologies for reducing traffic congestion and pollution in the UK.” 

Developing AI technology

Following the Centre’s launch, SimplifAI announced it had secured £250,000 co-investment from an angel investor, GC Angels and E2E Capital Ventures, as part of its plans to develop its technology in the city of Manchester. 

The company plans to use the investment to expand its team and relationship with Transport for Greater Manchester and the NHS Northern Care Alliance.  

It also plans to use the investment to develop its AI technology for health services in Manchester as it is already working with the NHS in the region to consider improvements to the way appointments are scheduled.  

Professor Andrew Ball, Pro Vice-Chancellor for Research and Enterprise, who also spoke at the official launch said: “I am delighted that the Huddersfield AI Transport Research Centre has chosen the University of Huddersfield’s 3M Buckley Innovation Centre as its base and that we will be able to play our part, with Kirklees Council and the other stakeholders, in the exciting developments ahead.”

 

Keith McCabe, Sue Cook and Professor Andrew Ball Pictured above (l-r) at the opening of the new Huddersfield AI Transport Research Centre are the CEO of SimplifAI Systems Keith McCabe, the 3MBIC CEO Sue Cooke and the University's Pro Vice-Chancellor for Research and Enterprise and Professor of Diagnostic Engineering Andrew Ball.

More news from the Department of Computer Science