The Transport Systems Catapult blogs about their role in the LiFE project…

The Transport Systems Catapult is the UK’s technology and innovation centre for intelligent mobility. One of our areas of expertise is modelling and visualisation (M&V). The M&V business unit uses different open source and commercial software to explore alternative future supply and demand scenarios to improve system efficiency, cost-effectiveness and resilience [1].

The LiFE project kicked off in November 2015, and throughout, a team of three experts from the Transport Systems Catapult took shape: Fabio, project manager and microsimulation traffic modeller expert, Ecaterina, software developer, and myself, Vittoria, transport modeller.

We had very clear in mind what we had to achieve: build a traffic model with the ability to replicate the emergency vehicles and the other vehicles’ behaviours around them, plus testing the LiFE solution in order to see whether it would be beneficial or not to be implemented in real life. And it wasn’t an easy task.

Microsimulation transport models, traditionally used to replicate the interactions between vehicles, obey some specific built-in rules that can be altered, within certain limits, to reproduce the desired operation of the model. However, in the specific case of the LiFE project, these standard rules needed an external “adjustment” when it came to coding the emergency vehicles’ behaviour (external driver model).

We do all know the general rule of “moving out of the way” when an emergency vehicle is approaching, however the challenging element was to bring this behaviour into a commercial, and widely used, traffic microsimulation model. A few months of hard work, especially by Ecaterina, were necessary to code and validate the perfect behaviour against several real emergency vehicles trips. Two different network models were used during the first phase for testing and validation purposes: Milton Keynes, where roundabouts are kings, and Liverpool. In January 2017, we achieved the desired behaviour effects (Fig. 1) thanks to PTV Vissim support (the software used for the modelling task), and validated both the baseline traffic model, as well as the emergency vehicles behaviour against real traffic levels and EVs travel time (provided under the label of AVL).








Figure 1: Ambulance perspective in the microsimulation traffic model and in real life.

The enhanced model developed by the TSC team received very positive feedback by the transport modelling community. We presented the preliminary results of this work at the PTV Innovation Day in London (Nov, 2016), and we have been told that “we are pushing the limits of the software”.

In April, we are bringing the LiFE project to Rome at the Transport Infrastructure and Systems 2017 Congress (TIS 2017), where we are sure we are going to arouse lots of interest again.

Next phase will be testing the LiFE system, figuring out in what measure the system will improve the emergency vehicles travel time. We cannot wait to see the results.

Learn more about the Transport Systems Catapult here.


[1] Neffendorf, H., Fletcher, G., North, R., Worsley, T., & Bradley, R. (2015). Modelling For Intelligent Mobility. Milton Keynes: Transport Systems Catpult.