PTV, one of the market leader in software solutions for traffic and transportation planning, regularly organises the so-called Innovation Days. The aim of those events is to provide the users of their software products a forum to broaden and share their transportation knowledge and modelling expertise.
We took the opportunity to present our software pipeline to create Virtual Reality application using Vissim at the PTV Innovation Day in Singapore on the 22th of July 2016. The slide of our presentation titled Using Vissim for Virtual Reality Applications to Evaluate Active Mobility Solutions can be found here. It was great to see and hear that the presentation was well received as Alastair Evanson, Solution Director at PTV Vissim & Vistro at PTV Group, noted:
“The use of PTV Vissim in their project Engaging Active Mobility, which models and visualises streetscape designs to understand people’s preferences to cycle infrastructure, is just the sort of innovative application that we at PTV like to see our software being used for. The audience at the event found it a very interesting subject and PTV look forward to further co-ordinating on the topic to enhance the application of PTV Vissim in allowing people to ‘experience’ proposed designs through interacting with micro-simulation models in virtual/ augmented reality.”
Click here to access the slides of the presentation.
With this blog post, we also would like to summarise the other interesting presentations at the event and share the respective slides.
On the opening day, Tomás Wissenbach from the Sao Paulo’s urban development agency talked about the challenges of urban transformation in Brazil and explained the recent efforts of Sao Paulo’s administration to collect all available datasets across the different governmental authorities regarding Sao Paulo’s population and infrastructure. This data fusion and processing endeavour culminated in an online interactive application (Figure 1) which anyone can access and download the datasets. In the second phase of the project, Wissenbach announced the possibility to collaborate in projects that can capture the urban transformation experienced in the city, and that can help the government to make informed decisions to plan for a better city.
Prof. Ana Bazzan, from the Institute of Informatics at Universidade Federal do Rio Grande do Sul (UFRGS), presented in her keynote presentations on her work in agents and multi-agent systems in traffic and transportation. (video here, slides here) The talk started with the rise of the cities, and the inherent transportation challenges within. Prof. Bazzan introduced then the idea of a data ecosystem triggered by people’s participatory sensing as the key to develop analytical applications to improve the transportation system. In a smart city, citizens interact directly with the system instead of just being passively receiving information. This change in the paradigm requires a human/agent- approach for the information, modelling and control challenges in which humans act as both targets and active subjects (i.e. sensors).
Putting all together: Data and Complex Adaptive Systems for Transportation Planning
My presentation on our research project Engaging Big Data supplemented the prior presentations quite nicely. This ongoing project conducted at the Future Cities Laboratory of the Singapore ETH Centre seeks to build up an agent-based simulation framework for transport planning using MATSim that can benefit from both urban mobility sensors (e.g. mobile phone and smart card data) and traditional data inputs (e.g. household travel survey and census information) (Figure 2). In the era of ubiquitous sensing and big data, the first challenge for developing the next generation of predictive, large-scale transport simulation models relies on designing a data mining pipeline that can fuse the knowledge from these different datasets in order to have an enriched and full explanation of the urban mobility dynamics. The second challenge aims in using this information to automate the parameters of a MATSim scenario, which would not only allow to significantly lower the efforts required for setting up simulation scenarios but would also lead to even more realistic results. This will ultimately serve as a platform to test the viability of policy and infrastructure decisions before they are implemented, and guide and inform the urban and transport planning process.
Besides the workshop, I took the opportunity to experience some of the results of the city of Sao Paulo’s recent pushes to improve the adoption of sustainable transportation policies. Those initiatives primarily target the notorious traffic congestion the 21 million inhabitants of the metropolitan areas are suffering from. With the introduction of the ‘Bilhete Único’ in 2004, a smart card automatic fare collection system for the public transport, citizens are being incentivise to opt for public transport through standard fares regardless of distance or number of connections. The data on mobility patterns that this system generates every day would also be an ideal source for setting up Big Data driven urban transport simulation. In addition, Sao Paulo’s municipality has recently done major investments on bicycle infrastructure throughout the main avenues of the city, including the symbolic, Avenida Paulista. (Figure 3)
– although my colleagues at FCL who study how street design can support active mobility think that there is potential to make cyclists feel more comfortable and safe on this major arteria ;-).
Every year, on 2nd August many transport researchers from around the work feel utterly relieved after they successfully submitted their papers for presentation at the Annual Meeting of Transportation Research Board. The meeting, which actually is the by far biggest conference in our field takes place every year in Washington D.C. in January of the following year.
Sometimes I ask myself what’s to point of going to conference in an age where researchers are not even present one but often even several social networks that are purely dedicated to scientists and constant bombardment of Tweets, Facebook updates and new blogposts ;-).
But being at TRB is always special to me. Not only it is great to catch up with colleagues in persons to informally exchange and spin new ideas, there are also always those chance acquaintanceships that make personal and research life so much richer. And checking out the mood of a city just before a new president (blonde for sure, but hopefully not male) is inaugurated is also always special.
Enough small talk, here come in an exclusive sneak peek the three submissions from people related to the Engaging Mobility group at the Future Cities Laboratory of the Singapore ETH Centre. My great co-authors and are looking forward to hopefully positive constructive points for critique from the reviewers, but also are curious on your comments!
In this paper we elaborate on potential use cases of Virtual Reality (VR) in transportation research and planning and present how we integrated procedural 3D modelling and traffic micro-simulation with the rendering capabilities of a game engine in a semi-automated pipeline.
Through a review of potential practical applications, we present how this pipeline will be employed to distil behavioural evidence that can guide planners through dilemmas when designing future cycling infrastructure. At the same time, we are studying efficacy of VR as a method for assessing perceptual behaviour as opposed to traditional methods of visualization. Concretely, we present how the pipeline can be adapted i) to generate parameterised visualisations for stated preference surveys, ii) as a platform for a cycling simulator and iii) to communicate different design scenarios for stakeholder engagement. The flexibility of procedural programming allows discretionary changes to the street design and the traffic parameters. Through this experience of developing procedural models, traffic microsimulations and ultimately VR models for streets in Singapore, we find that visual and temporal feedback enabled by VR makes several important design parameters observable and allows researchers to conduct new types of behavioural surveys to understand how people will respond to different design options. In addition, we conclude that such VR applications open new avenues for citizen engagement and communication of urban plans to stakeholders.
The indices for walkability proposed so far are mostly ad-hoc and refer generally to the closest amenities/public transport stops and the existing network structure. They are ad-hoc as the weights of the attributes are generally arbitrary and do not reflect the independently measured preferences of the users and residents. Furthermore, they do not include design attributes such as the location of crossings and walkway design features, which are very relevant for actual planning decisions.
In this paper, we propose a walkability index that can be behaviorally calibrated and has been implemented as a GIS tool and is published as Open Source software. The Pedestrian Accessibility Tool allows evaluating existing and future urban plans with regards to walkability. It calculates Hansen-based accessibility indicators based on customizable specification of generalized walking cost and user-defined weights of destination attractiveness.
Given the rapid technological advances in developing autonomous vehicles (AV), the key question appears not so much anymore how, but when AVs would be ready to be commercially introduced. Therefore, it is very timely to explore how the new way of travelling will shape the traffic environment in the future. Questions regarding the environmental impact, changes in infrastructure and policy measures are widely discussed. Most likely, the introduction of AVs will not only add an option to the traveller’s choice of means of transport, but also shape how people interact with the traffic environment. From a transport planning point of view, key questions concerning the introduction of AVs as a new means of transport are how it will influence travel behaviour, how supply and demand for AV will balance, how it impacts the viability of existing public transport services and how AVs will impact congestion and demand for parking.
In this report, a new simulation framework based on MATSim is presented, allowing for the simulation of AVs in an integrated, network- and population-based traffic environment. The demand evolves dynamically from the traffic situation rather than being a static constraint as in numerous previous studies. This allows for the testing of various scenarios and concepts around the introduction of AVs while taking into account their feedback on the travellers’ choices and perceptions.
Using a realistic test scenario, it is shown that even under conservative pricing a large share of travellers is attracted by autonomous vehicles, though it is highly dependend on the provided fleet size. For sufficiently large supplies it has been found that for the autonomous single-passenger taxis in this report the vehicle miles travelled increase up to 60%.