Potential for traffic management to reduce pollution hotspots shown in Munich pilot

Hawa Dawa, in collaboration with Siemens Mobility and ryd, have demonstrated the effectiveness of an eco-routing pilot launched at the end of 2018.

The four-week pilot, ‘Saubere Luft in München’, or SLIM, was designed to test the hypothesis that data-based route recommendations could encourage individual drivers within Munich to actively (and repeatedly) select their upcoming journeys according to forecast pollutant levels along their most commonly travelled routes.

40 percent of drivers in the study selected the eco-sensitive routes recommended ahead of their journey, with many choosing to take the recommended (rather than their usual) route multiple times. Although a simple points-based incentive scheme was introduced for participating drivers in this initial phase, the overall findings of this short pilot hint at the potential for a larger-scale project of this sort to influence the build-up of pollution hotspots and optimize traffic flows across urban hubs.

Hawa Dawa’s 24-hour forecasts of Nitrogen Dioxide (NO2) levels across Munich were pivotal to Siemens’ algorithm being able to form route recommendations for ryd’s sample group of drivers. Using anonymized historical trip data, the pilot estimated the most commonly travelled routes and, using our pollutant forecasts, generated a more eco-friendly (and in many cases, shorter) route to be pushed to drivers.

‘We believe eco-routing at the individual vehicle level has extremely high potential as a policy option in tackling unacceptable levels of traffic-related air pollution in cities. This pilot was able to demonstrate the impact on individual behaviours of such a measure, in a short period of time. This hints at the huge untapped potential in trialling and adapting eco-sensitive routing alongside other smart mobility options within other large conurbations. Hawa Dawa’s contribution to air quality monitoring, forecasting and modelling provides a critical first step in designing measures to tackle air pollution.’ Karim Tarraf, CEO Hawa Dawa

The wider implications of the pilot’s findings are significant; particularly for cities facing fines for being in breach of the EU’s introduced limits for particulate matter (PM10) and nitrogen dioxide (NO2). Munich as a testbed sends a particularly vociferous message; the city has the second highest NO2 levels in Germany (after Stuttgart) and consistently reports the worst traffic volumes and congestion in the country. Rolled out on a larger scale – albeit with careful attention given to the capacity of a host city to implement widespread re-routing measures – eco-routing and more broadly, eco-sensitive traffic management (including speed controls, flow dispersion, time-limited routing and closures etc.) can play a key role in reducing pollution hotspots and lowering overall pollutant levels.

Although not the fundamental goal of the project, it had the laudable secondary effect of lowering overall distance travelled by the sample group and reducing each individual’s environmental footprint compared to their usual routes. The SLIM pilot, a four-week feasibility study, saved around 83 kg of CO2 and 114g of NOx equivalent. Scaled over an entire city and extended over a longer period of time, it is possible to imagine how quickly the combined effects of dispersing individual vehicles could impact on improving a city’s health metrics, air pollution, carbon footprint and liveability.

Hawa Dawa shares the intention of the other two project partners, ryd and Siemens Mobility: to establish and develop the initial findings of this small scale pilot into an extended, flagship project with potentially huge dividends. The ideal host city would be willing to invest in intelligent infrastructure and new connected mobility measures to help alleviate the problem of traffic-related air pollution. Once the initial benefits are established, a next step might be to explore whether it would be possible to influence modal shifts in the same way, leading to the ultimate reduction in individual diesel- or petrol-based transportation across our cities.

“By shaping connected mobility, we can not only improve the efficiency of transportation, but also its impact on the environment. Our digital lab is at the forefront of data analytics and artificial intelligence in road transportation and we’re proud that we have proven these capabilities can be used to improve Munich’s air quality” Michael Peter, CEO Siemens Mobility.

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