Instead of the government throwing money at the problem, the NICTA team looked at how the transport system could be transformed to create efficiencies. Using a new model, the system showed that people could get to their destination faster without having to pay more for their ticket.
"You get a taxi to pick you up and take you to the bus hub. Then you get on a high frequency bus, go to the next bus hub and get on another taxi. You're thinking 'that's very expensive'. But it turns out that because of the savings you make by having the buses running nearly full, keeping the buses fully utilised, you actually have enough money to pay for the taxis at either end," says Economou.
"And instead of just waiting at the bus stop where you have a service say every two hours, you can just ring up a taxi with 15 minutes warning and say 'I'd like to catch the bus at this bus stop'. Yeah, you do have to change, but you don't have to wait as much."
NICTA has sent a proposal to the ACT government to trial the new system.
"It's the ability to build these detailed models with lots of understanding of the interactions and the costs; and now using more advanced mathematics and computation, you can actually run scenarios and understand them," says Economou.
NICTA is also doing machine learning and predictive analytics in addition to conventional simulation planning for a new light rail in George St, Sydney. The team looked at historical data to build a model that can predict how the traffic will behave under certain conditions, and build future action plans based on that data.
"We are looking at how to complement and extend it with machine learning [using] the counters from under the road. So there are these little things that detect cars, and those things are constantly counting ... and inferring how to adjust the green, red and amber cycles to try and get through as many cars as possible," says Economou.
"We built a model of how the Sydney CBD is working and then from that, made predictions on what would happen when George St was closed."
Preventing incidents with smart safety and emergency services
There were 1,188 road deaths let alone crashes in the year ended March 2014, according to Bureau of Infrastructure,Transport and Regional Economics.
John Wall, manager of road safety technology at Transport for NSW, reflects on an incident from a few years ago that stands out in his mind: A young women was driving in severe wet conditions, hit a wet patch on the road and crashed into a pole.
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