The three-year project involves transport experts, computing scientists and economists working together within dot.rural — the Research Councils UK (RCUK) research hub based at the university — which is investigating how digital technologies could transform rural communities.
Prof John Nelson, director of the university’s Centre for Transport Research, said: ’For rural dwellers without access to a private car, transport choices can be limiting — for example, only 57 per cent of households in rural areas are within a 13-minute walk of an hourly or better bus service. The aim is to develop technology that would improve the relationship between transport supply and demand in rural and remote parts of the country.’
The software would pull together information on all of the transportation options within a given geographical area — from buses to private taxis. In addition, it could also provide suppliers of transport specific to education, social services, elderly, and disabled people the opportunity to offer their services to the wider public at times of the day when their vehicles were not being used.
It would potentially be accessed by rural dwellers via a website, by telephone or in the form of a public information portal.
Those seeking transport would post details of their intended trip — including the date, time and the estimated cost they would be willing to pay for their journey. The software would then automatically ’match-make’ the passenger with the various transport options available to them.
’These options could include information about suitable bus services available, or details of the potential for a shared taxi journey with another individual who has posted similar journey requirements,’ said Nelson.
Researchers plan to engage with rural communities who would help define the functionality of the software and test prototypes throughout its development.
Nelson added: ’We hope that by improving the relationship between passengers and transport providers, the software could encourage increased use of public and shared transport in rural areas.’