innovITS is the UK centre for excellence in ITS.  It is a small organisation non-profit distributing that was originally funded by the UK Department for Business Innovation & Skills.  The mission is to accelerate the exploitation in the UK of leading edge research in ICT and systems engineering based solutions to meet challenges in transport and in doing so grow businesses in ITS.

Delivery and operation of innovITS ADVANCE is seen as  a key enabler to accelerating the development and exploitation of next generation ITS and thus is key to delivering the mission of innovITS.

ERTICO: What are the benefits of a purpose built facility such as “innovITS ADVANCE”? How does it differ from other test sites?

Phil Pettitt: There are several clear benefits with a site that is purpose built:

  • It conveniently provides road space with features typical of those to be found in a city ‘driving scape’ combined with technology specifically for developing ITS solutions 
  • These include a comprehensive road network for speeds typical in a urban environment traffic control features such as traffic lights and a range of communications options relevant to ITS (such as WiFi at 802.11 b/g/n as well as 802.11p GSM and 3G)
  • These features are dedicated to test use so developers can allocate the road space and manipulate directly the communications and control to suit the specific needs for testing and measurement; put simply the developer can enhance or degrade the signal strength of the various telecommunications to recreate the types of effects experienced in an urban environment. This is what makes innovITS ADVANCE completely unique.
  • It is private site which has been designed with ‘plug and play’ simplicity in mind so tests can be performed with not only more efficacy but also that might be reckless to perform on public highways or require months of rigorous preparation to ensure safe operation. Thus innovITS ADVANCE can help reduce cost and speed time to market for ITS and Telematics solutions
  • As an additional benefit the privacy of the site means that only those you want to see the tests will do so

This is of value to those developing systems in vehicles or new roadside infrastructure or the communications systems where interoperability is crucial by providing an environment which allows repeatable testing in a secure and validated environment.

ERTICO: What is the current status of “innovITS ADVANCE”? What is currently happening there?

Phil Pettitt: After several years of planning and two years of construction and commissioning the facility is now ready for use. One organisation used it early this summer to demonstrate a range of active safety features from various manufacturers and how these might be tested for a safety rating scheme for consumers.  Other customers are in the advanced stages of discussions about their needs and how they want to use the site.  Given their commercial sensitivities I am unable to give further details; however it is reasonable to say that we are in discussion with a broad range of the ITS and Telematics Supply Chain from vehicle manufacturers to tier suppliers developers and academia.

You ask what products are to be market tested at innovITS ADVANCE.  This is not the purpose of this site.  Market testing requires use on public roads in trials.  The site is primarily of value for testing concepts in early prototypes or for more detailed measurement of performance or testing in failure modes before market testing on a public road. innovITS ADVANCE is the facility you would use to develop and validate a solution to ensure that once public demonstration or market testing begins the supplier knows a new product or service works how well it works and how it performs in suboptimal conditions.

ERTICO: What are the future plans?

Phil Pettitt: Plans to date have been focussed upon what is required from a purpose built test facility for ITS applications. This has required a very careful process of requirements capture and analysis to provide a balanced design with a comprehensive range of facilities to suit developers as best as possible.  Delivering this within the tight budgets has been challenging but worthwhile as it has forced all those involved to think clearly about what can be provided for the potential customers of this facility. 

The current focus is upon working with customers and potential customers to clarify how they are actually going to use the facility.
One challenge as a new type of test facility is that it opens new possibilities about how to develop and test ITS systems and thus presents a whole new range of use case scenarios. 
Customers have been discussing how to test Active Safety systems and applications to reduce vehicle emissions and reduce energy use; either by vehicle control or cooperative traffic management. 

As safety and transaction critical systems become more widespread there is a need for rigorous tests; either for informal ratings schemes or for regulatory tests of standards compliance.  We are tracking what this requirement might be and participating where applicable to the debate so that innovITS ADVANCE remains relevant to the task.

ERTICO: “innovITS ADVANCE” has a “city circuit” – a configurable road network which can replicate different urban driving scenarios. Can you tell us more about this?

Phil Pettitt: The road network consists of 4km  roads mostly two lanes like normal single carriageway roads with an outer perimeter road of 2km. The two main highways at the centre of the circuit intersect and offer a three and five lane road thus providing a flexible assortment of arrangements; bus lanes lay bys and similar features can be set up.  There are crossroads and T-junctions and numerous roundabouts; so a large range of traffic situations can be characterised.  As an attention to detail at least one junction is arranged at the brow of a slope so that tests involving sensors pointing up towards the sky can be done.  Speeds of 80km can be achieved on parts of the circuit but most of it is designed for typical urban environments up to 50km.

Road markings have been kept to a minimum allowing specific tests to have the roads marked out as required and to allow both right and left hand drive testing. Similarly the traffic lights can be set to operate either for left or right running.  The traffic lights also have a special mode within which specific failure settings can be emulated; perhaps necessary for some applications.

The 4 overhead gantries provide for observation of tests or for installation of equipment. Each provides a stable overhead and over road platform for mounting test equipment or for recording results. In addition both the gantries and at other points around the road network are power points with electrical mains supply. This allows customers to power laptops and test equipment easily and without recourse to generators.

The communications systems are all private to the site. These are not part of any publicly available communications infrastructure.  Therefore power levels can be manipulated or base stations switched off. The radio environment is in this way highly configurable to suit specific test regimes.

Finally this is an open field site that provides a clear GPS signal. This is important for early stage testing or where GPS positioning performance is not relevant. However for effective operation many systems will need to work in environments more challenging for GNSS dependent applications.  For this purpose we have a system called Skyclone to feed customer systems with an attenuated GNSS signal that models these more challenging environments.  Scenarios can be designed to include urban canyons as if in a major world capital such as New York for a lower rise urban environment in forested areas in tunnels and even in the presence of GPS jammers. The Skyclone GNSS denial system is a significant feature of innovITS ADVANCE and given the relevance of GPS in many current and future ITS and Telematics scenarios has attracted considerable interest.

Facts & Figures about innovITS ADVANCE

Road aspects
1.    Approximately 4km of roads with junctions and roundabouts
2.    Traffic lights at 2 junctions allowing for both left and right running.
3.    A length of road with street lighting
4.    Comprehensive CCTV
5.    4 steel overhead gantries
6.    Lots of electrical power points
7.    Private 3G GSM & WiFi (including 802.11p) networks
8.    Motorised pedestrian dummies and inflatable vehicles
9.    Ground truth high precision video system at main junction
10.    Comprehensive control and logging system
11.    Differential GNSS signal for higher accuracy positioning
12.    GNSS Denial (SkyClone)
    Providing emulation of attenuated signal in urban environments; including tunnels and jammers
Located at
13.    MIRA Nuneaton CV10 0TU UK
14.    Which provides office & workshop space and  other test facilities

Contact Details
15.    Roger Wilson

You can read the innovITS ADVANCE article published on ERTICO website here

Link to original Article

Original Publication Date: Wed 21 Sep 2011