Contributed by 1Spatial
2/07/2021 - 1Spatial
If you don’t know who Dave is and why he needs saving, bear with me…
A few years ago, I found myself in charge of a team of consultants to take forwards a project to automate the production of signing, lighting, and guarding layouts for traffic management at street works by encoding a rule book – the “Red book” and its delightfully comprehensive “Chapter 8”.
This is something traffic management designers have been doing for years in CAD tools. And because that’s how it’s still done, it effectively demonstrates that it is really difficult to produce such layouts sby any other means than by drawing it out in layers with lines and blocks. But you know what? We tried it, and we managed it.
Of course, it helped that the project could only have a successful outcome because it set out to test whether automation is possible, or not.
We built a prototype that proved we could automate a substantial amount of the “Red book” of rules on safety at street works and do it in a matter of seconds. We do, I should confess, have a bit of an advantage – automation software that takes data and subjects it to a set of business rules is what we do. Those rules can come from a range of sources; from rule books like the “Red book”, to the knowledge in the heads of those who’ve been doing their job for years – this knowledge is also rules, albeit perhaps never written down.
Fast forward and the project isn’t really a project anymore, the solution is now successfully deployed. In addition, the project team became a product team, and I became the Product Manager, and the company sponsored the recent HAUC(UK) National Convention.
When you consider what the pandemic has thrown at us all, and although these things are much better in a full in-person setting, the way conferences like HAUC have moved online is impressive. This one was no different – it was well put together (well done GeoPlace!), used good platform technology for presentations and attendance, and delivered the same rich agenda you’d expect if you were attending the event in a conference centre.
So what stood out to me from my perspective and focus on signing, lighting, and guarding at street works?
Well, safety at street works in terms of the traffic management layouts is just the tip of what seems like a very large iceberg. Reinstatement regulations (and materials!), permitting, lane rental schemes, fines, and a large cast of characters from promoters, through highways authorities, to contractors; all of whom, despite being a large community, do seem to know each other really quite well judging from the live stream of comments for each presentation! And I must specifically mention the new HAUC(UK) app. It’s a digital guided journey through the “Red book” – an evolving resource, and one that will really help keep Dave alive and well. Dave? Dave who? Well, you’ll just have to check out this short video to find out!
But what stood out the most to me were the drivers that will, most likely, see many more street works in the coming years. Climate change and the imperative to achieve “net zero” will see significant investments in electric vehicle charging infrastructure and a rise in district heating schemes, all of which will involve disruptive excavations in road and footways for years to come and insert new infrastructure that will require maintaining – all alongside that which is already there, of course. But there’s another category too – “Active Travel”. Whether linked to “net zero” or seen as something of a serendipitous consequence of the quietening of the streets during the lockdowns, changes to road layouts and networks to better accommodate more walking and cycling and, likely, fewer vehicles, will also impact the number of excavations that will take place on our roads and footways in the next few years.
More street works. Hmm. That causes me some conflict. On the one hand I don’t exactly relish being stuck at more give-and-take/stop-go-boards/traffic-lights (delete as appropriate depending on the passing width past your work area, working space, and safety zone), but as the Product Manager for something that makes the production of layouts for signing, lighting, and guarding fast and consistent, it’s music to my ears. And perhaps we can contribute to the “Save Dave” campaign in our own small way.
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