West Midlands robots to roam stations offering assistance to passengers




The Head of Network Transformation at Transport for the West Midlands, Steve Hayes, will contribute to our 'Science Cities' forum panel discussion this week, on innovations being introduced to make travel more sustainable across this region which is the historic heartland of the UK's automotive engineering industry.


Separately, six innovative and pioneering projects exploring the benefits and applications of 5G technology in the transport sector have been awarded a share of a £1.6 million investment fund.


West Midlands 5G (WM5G) and Transport for West Midlands (TfWM) which is part of the West Midlands Combined Authority WMCA) have partnered to be awarded funding for the development and deployment of 5G enabled innovations that will enhance road, rail and bus usage across the region.


The projects range from autonomous information robots at Birmingham New Street station, to solutions using smart camera systems that will help manage overcrowding on buses. Others include the use of connected technology and smart sensors to quickly identify track and power line defects on the region's rail and tram networks.


Set to take place over the next 12 months, each project includes a minimum of three months of user or product testing within the West Midlands to verify benefits to operators and travellers.


All projects will use 5G's low latency, greater bandwidth and increased capacity to generate significant social benefits, with a particular focus on improving health and safety.


While some projects will look at enhancing traveller experience, others will develop a more efficient and smoother movement of passengers, helping to increase confidence in the use of public transport post-pandemic.


Digital Infrastructure Minister Matt Warman states:


'The idea of robots roaming railway stations and assisting passengers might sound like science fiction, but it could soon be a reality thanks to the government investing up to £20 million in West Midlands 5G. These innovative projects will explore how 5G can make public transport better for both passengers and staff, including making it easier for disabled people to travel, reducing overcrowding on buses and detecting hazards on the railways.'


To improve access to information and build passenger confidence in large stations, 5GER (TrainFX, University of Strathclyde and University of Surrey) is developing the UK's first 5G-enabled smart train station robot. Through a combination of state of the art 5G technology and mobile robots, the robot will be able to navigate large and complex railway stations like Birmingham New Street autonomously. It can interact with people, provide information and assurance to those in need of extra information or assistance to help improve passenger confidence in stations.

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