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24 July 2007 PR 07/100

New technology could end misery of flat congestion charges

A new infrared imaging system that automatically counts the number of people in moving road vehicles could offer a simple and cost effective solution to help lower carbon emissions and congestion.

Demand for innovative ways to encourage vehicle sharing is particularly acute in major cities as only 20% of the road capacity is used by multiple occupancy vehicles. With 80% of vehicles occupied only by the driver, congestion charge zones and toll gates are an increasingly common feature on Britain’s traffic black spots. But unless vehicle occupants can be easily counted, it is impossible to implement variable charging to encourage more journeys to be shared.

Dtect, the new technology developed by optical engineering experts at Loughborough University, can be used for a variety of scenarios where multiple occupancy could attract lower fees, such as congestion zones; toll roads, bridges and tunnels; high occupancy vehicle lanes and car parks. It illuminates the moving vehicle’s windscreen without distracting the occupants and then processes images using a patented formula to detect the number of occupants. Occupant identity and vehicle registration can be stored in case penalties need enforcing, otherwise this information is data protected. The process takes a fraction of a second and results can either be integrated into a larger automated traffic management system or transmitted to a remote terminal.

Avingtrans Plc, who own Crown UK Ltd, the leading UK supplier of roadside camera housings, has recently made a major investment into the Loughborough technology. For John Tyrer, Loughborough inventor and director of Vehicle Occupancy Ltd, the company formed to commercialise the technology, this partnership is ideal: “Flat rate charges are not the answer to congestion and the resultant pollution. Getting more people to share their journeys can only happen with incentives like variable charging. We have developed the step change technology to make this happen and Avingtrans / Crown have the credibility to incorporate it into the market.”

Ends

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Notes for editors:

  1. About Vehicle Occupany ltd (VOL)
    VOL (http://www.vehicaloccupancy.com) is a Loughborough University spin out formed in 2004 to commercialise the Dtect technology for detecting and counting occupants in moving vehicles. Dtect is part of a portfolio of innovations in non-contact testing developed by Loughborough engineer Dr John Tyrer through his first spin out company Laser Optical Engineering (http://www.laseropticalengineering.com), formed in 1997.
    About Avingtrans plc
    Avingtrans (http://www.avingtrans.plc.uk) is an AIM listed company specialising in the design and manufacture of critical components and associated services to the medical, aerospace and tranport sectors. Its subsidiary company Crown UK (http://www.crownukltd.com) designs and manufactures Crown Pole, the UK’s leading leading pole and support fabrication units for roadside safety cameras. Crown also manufactures new developments in rail track signalling, gantries and trackside signalling poles.

  2. Loughborough is one of the country’s leading universities, with an international reputation for excellence in teaching and research, strong links with industry and unrivalled sporting achievement.

    It is a member of the esteemed 1994 Group – a set of internationally recognised, research-intensive universities – and has a reputation for the relevance of its work. Its degree programmes are highly regarded by professional institutions and businesses, and its graduates are consistently targeted by the UK’s top recruiters.

    Loughborough is also the UK’s premier university for sport. It has perhaps the best integrated sports development environment in the world and is home to some of the country’s leading coaches, sports scientists and support staff. It also has the country’s largest concentration of world-class training f acilities across a wide range of sports.

    In the 2006 National Student Survey, the University gained a top five place, with nine out of Loughborough’s 23 departments topping their subject tables. Loughborough was also placed 6th in the 2007 Times Good University Guide and was named winner of the 2006 THES award for the UK’s Best Student Experience. In recognition of its contribution to the sector, the University has been awarded five Queen's Anniversary Prizes – an achievement bettered by no other university.

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