Responsible Automation for Inclusive Mobility (RAIM): Using AI to Develop Future Transport Systems that Meet the Needs of Ageing Populations

Lead Research Organisation: University of Leeds
Department Name: Sch of Geography

Abstract

To capture the full social and economic benefits of AI, new technologies must be sensitive to the diverse needs of the whole population. This means understanding and reflecting the complexity of individual needs, the variety of perceptions, and the constraints that might guide interaction with AI. This challenge is no more relevant than in building AI systems for older populations, where the role, potential, and outstanding challenges are all highly significant.

The RAIM (Responsible Automation for Inclusive Mobility) project will address how on-demand, electric autonomous vehicles (EAVs) might be integrated within public transport systems in the UK and Canada to meet the complex needs of older populations, resulting in improved social, economic, and health outcomes. The research integrates a multidisciplinary methodology - integrating qualitative perspectives and quantitative data analysis into AI-generated population simulations and supply optimisation. Throughout the project, there is a firm commitment to interdisciplinary interaction and learning, with researchers being drawn from urban geography, ageing population health, transport planning and engineering, and artificial intelligence.

The RAIM project will produce a diverse set of outputs that are intended to promote change and discussion in transport policymaking and planning. As a primary goal, the project will simulate and evaluate the feasibility of an on-demand EAV system for older populations. This requires advances around the understanding and prediction of the complex interaction of physical and cognitive constraints, preferences, locations, lifestyles and mobility needs within older populations, which differs significantly from other portions of society. With these patterns of demand captured and modelled, new methods for meeting this demand through optimisation of on-demand EAVs will be required. The project will adopt a forward-looking, interdisciplinary approach to the application of AI within these research domains, including using Deep Learning to model human behaviour, Deep Reinforcement Learning to optimise the supply of EAVs, and generative modelling to estimate population distributions.

A second component of the research involves exploring the potential adoption of on-demand EAVs for ageing populations within two regions of interest. The two areas of interest - Manitoba, Canada, and the West Midlands, UK - are facing the combined challenge of increasing older populations with service issues and reducing patronage on existing services for older travellers. The RAIM project has established partnerships with key local partners, including local transport authorities - Winnipeg Transit in Canada, and Transport for West Midlands in the UK - in addition to local support groups and industry bodies. These partnerships will provide insights and guidance into the feasibility of new AV-based mobility interventions, and a direct route to influencing future transport policy. As part of this work, the project will propose new approaches for assessing the economic case for transport infrastructure investment, by addressing the wider benefits of improved mobility in older populations.

At the heart of the project is a commitment to enhancing collaboration between academic communities in the UK and Canada. RAIM puts in place opportunities for cross-national learning and collaboration between partner organisations, ensuring that the challenges faced in relation to ageing mobility and AI are shared. RAIM furthermore will support the development of a next generation of researchers, through interdisciplinary mentoring, training, and networking opportunities.

Planned Impact

There are a number of potential beneficiaries for this research, and the project has established partnerships with policymakers, stakeholders, and industry bodies to ensure impact is maximised. These beneficiaries can be broadly grouped into the following categories:

Local Transport Authorities and Government - Through partnerships established through the project, the local transport authorities in Manitoba and the West Midlands will gain access to project outputs (data, reports, analyses, new methods, and models). These outputs will help inform future policymaking on older population mobility, and promote long-term planning for new travel mode integration. More broadly, the research developed during the project will be of benefit to local transport authorities worldwide, given both the global context of ageing populations, and the broad scope of the research setting that captures both urban and rural needs in two diverse contexts. The project will furthermore contribute towards discourse around the economic value of transport investments in relation to older populations, and highlight the wider benefits of investment to local society, economy, and government spending. Broader links will be achieved through research dissemination in the form of reports, presentations, and events, that highlight the potential for this research. Project partner CUTRIC (Canadian Urban Transit Research & Innovation Consortium) will be central to enhancing the reach of the project findings and outputs.

Local Citizens - The research will benefit older populations in Manitoba and the West Midlands in particular, through the design of a transportation service which meets mobility needs while minimising constraints and barriers to use. The project will explore the economic case for investment in an electric autonomous vehicle (EAV) demand responsive transit (DRT) system, which accounts for more than typical values on economic growth. The project will also provide opportunities for local citizens to learn more about AVs, and assess their potential benefits. More broadly, the adoption of such technology, will have a benefit for all local citizens, by promoting inter-generational interaction, and reducing care burdens on family members. Links to older populations in our regions of interest will be made directly through partnership with local support groups (e.g., Transportation Options Networks for Seniors).

Non-Profit Organisations - In the same way that the research will benefit local populations, RAIM will provide non-profit organisations the evidence and tools needed for campaign effectively for new approaches to older mobility. The research will produce improved methods for meeting the mobility needs of older populations with automation, and provide a framework for making the economic case for public intervention. These benefits will be realised through provision of materials on the project website, and through the final project meeting, to which we will invite wider participation from these groups (via CUTRIC and the University of Manitoba Centre for Ageing), to be held in Winnipeg.

Autonomous Vehicle Manufacturers - By identifying pathways to improving the provision of EAVs to an older population, this research represents a new market for AV manufacturers. In developing a case for intervention, local governments (beyond Manitoba and the West Midlands) will require suppliers of an EAV DRT service, resulting in both vehicle sales and ongoing maintenance contracts. This market presents potentially stronger early economic opportunity than appealing to private ownership, which is currently cost prohibitive. Opportunities for engaging with these groups will be formed through our project partner CUTRIC, an organisation to promote research translation in Canada.

Publications

10 25 50
 
Description UKRI Roundtable on Automation and Autonomous Systems
Geographic Reach National 
Policy Influence Type Participation in a advisory committee
 
Description Graduate Enhancement of Tri-Agency Stipends (GETS)
Amount $31,500 (CAD)
Organisation University of Manitoba 
Sector Academic/University
Country Canada
Start 03/2021 
End 04/2024
 
Description Collaboration with Arup on agent-based modelling 
Organisation Arup Group
Country United Kingdom 
Sector Private 
PI Contribution Collaboration around the development of agent-based models of mobility.
Collaborator Contribution Provision of expertise and tools to help development of MATSim modelling.
Impact Development of an agent-based transportation model of the north of England
Start Year 2021
 
Description Collaboration with Office of National Statistics Data Science Campus 
Organisation Office for National Statistics
Country United Kingdom 
Sector Private 
PI Contribution This agreement is only in its early stages, but areas of collaboration discussed have related to agent-based modelling and data analytics within the context of urban mobility. A Memorandum of Understanding was signed between the ONS and the University to support this work in March 2022.
Collaborator Contribution None to date.
Impact None.
Start Year 2022
 
Description Partnership with Transport for West Midlands (TfWM) 
Organisation Transport for West Midlands
Country United Kingdom 
Sector Public 
PI Contribution The project team has met with members of TfWM at several points during the last year, to introduce the project and identify mutual interests.
Collaborator Contribution TfWM have offered to provide access to potential database of participants in the tracking and focus group components of our study, and to provide inputs and outputs for the transport modelling to ensure comparability between our models and those currently developed.
Impact Carney F, Kandt J. (2022). Health, out-of-home activities and digital inclusion in later life: Implications for emerging mobility services. Journal of Transport & Health,
Start Year 2021
 
Description Collaboration meeting with Spare Labs 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Industry/Business
Results and Impact Discussion of the planned applications and techniques on the project with Spare Labs, raising awareness of the research approach and establishing partnership for future translational activities.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2020
 
Description Focus groups with older citizens in Winnipeg, Canada 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Local
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact Two focus groups were held with members of the general public to elucidate their views on the use of autonomous vehicles. This process would have been informative to participants through access to new information on the technology and time to consider different views on their implementation.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2021
 
Description Interviews with Winnipeg Free Press 
Form Of Engagement Activity A press release, press conference or response to a media enquiry/interview
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Local
Primary Audience Media (as a channel to the public)
Results and Impact Interview with Winnipeg Free Press of two members of the research team to broaden awareness of the project and to identify potential participants in focus groups.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2021
URL https://www.winnipegfreepress.com/our-communities/souwester/Self-driving-shuttles-studied-for-use-by...
 
Description Panellist at agent-based modelling webinar on infrastructure 
Form Of Engagement Activity A formal working group, expert panel or dialogue
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact Panel presentation led to discussion of the use of data in agent-based modelling for urban analytics
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2020
 
Description Presentation at Institute of Transport Engineers Manitoba Division, Canada 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Regional
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact Around 30 people attended this presentation, which covered work on the use of novel mobility metrics.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2022
 
Description Presentation to a research training organization 
Form Of Engagement Activity A formal working group, expert panel or dialogue
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Postgraduate students
Results and Impact I was invited to present to an NSERC funded research training funded group called sMAP CREATE (Smart Mobility for the Aging Population https://smap.mcmaster.ca/). This is joint collaboration between McMaster University, the University of Windsor and the University of Manitoba (all in Canada).

The presentation broadly discussed what mobility means for older people, my past research on older drivers, and gave an introduction to RAIM. I also gave information on how to communicate about aging.

Following the presentation, I was interviewed for an internet story. See URL below. Slides for the presentation were shared with all members of sMAP
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2021
URL https://smap.mcmaster.ca/index.php/2021/02/24/interview-with-michelle-m-porter-phd-university-of-man...
 
Description Presentation to members of the Met Office 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact Presentation to members of the Met Office on a variety of projects.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2021