Sixth Sense Transport

Sixth Sense Transport is a £900k RCUK Funded project under the Energy theme involving:
Dr Tj Cherrett (PI), Southampton, Professor N Davies, Lancaster, Dr JE Dickinson, Bournemouth, Dr S Norgate, Salford, Dr C Speed, Edinburgh.

The project focuses upon reducing/re-distributing transport options through a flexible interpretation of time.

Our lives are governed by ‘fixed’ time schedules with activities aligned to school and work start/end times, public transport schedules, facility opening hours and deadlines. The rise of the ‘anytime’ 24 hour society has led to increased consumption of goods and services, the take-up of non-standard work schedules (e.g., rotating shifts), and a more dynamic approach to activity planning, leading to the constant ‘hectic’ pace of life many of us feel. Coupled to this is how laptops, smart phones and PDAs, linked to ‘social networking’ have revolutionized when, where and how people communicate in work and at home, softening ‘time’ and ‘space’, allowing social relationships to revolve around the appreciation of the relativity of friends and colleagues in personal time.

Under these circumstances, trip making behaviour to engage in these activities can be very complex, favouring single occupancy car use over more carbon efficient alternatives and resulting in mean travel distances increasing despite the time allocated to travel remaining relatively consistent. The car is highly compatible with society’s current scheduling patterns and alternative modes are often not considered as their use requires additional cognitive effort which often removes them from the decision making set.

Our research vision is to understand the extent to which behavioural change in transport habits and practices can be facilitated through the creation of a new form of ‘transport network’, based on extending social networking principles to transport users and their individual vehicles. Through the development of an innovative, open, extensible technical platform called 6th Sense Transport (6ST), we will provide users with new ways of understanding the relationships between their own future transport plans and those of others.

This approach could revolutionise the process of decision making in travel behaviour (whether it be for the movement of people or things) by using social networking principles to create ‘visibility’ of potential transport options in time and space. If we are better able to visualise the activity of people and things (cars, buses, lorries, even items within a lorry) relative to their immediate and future time schedules, and crucially, the conditions under which people and other ‘things’ might be willing to liaise and adapt, we might be able to realise more opportunistic and collaborative uses for transport resources, leading to a reduction in overall transport related carbon emissions.

6ST will provide a deep understanding of how the increasingly multiple forms of temporality and spatiality influence travel mode choices and the ways in which people and ‘things’ might be willing to share certain personal travel information. This will be achieved through the novel use of smart phone and tagging technology to provide data feeds on activity and availability, monitored through a Platform that will anticipate opportunities for connections that are then made visible to users in the social network.

Experiments in how potential users of a 6ST system might adapt, alter and collaborate in their travel behaviour, with the visibility of potential transport options afforded by the Platform, will be undertaken in three specific domains: Tourism (in relation to visitor communities on campsites), Primary Education (in relation to child drop-off and collection) and Urban Logistics (space availability and utilisation on delivery/collection vehicles).