Highways England is the UK government company charged with operating, maintaining and improving England’s motorways and major A Roads. Formerly the Highways Agency it became a government company in April 2015.
Innovation is a cornerstone of Highways England’s operation and is laid out in the Innovation, Technology, and Research Strategy document describing the UK government’s 2015 Road Investment Strategy. The £150m Innovation Designated Fund, running to 2021, was set aside to support innovation in new materials, technologies, and ways of working. Some £60m of this fund is targeted at the use of emerging technologies and data information. Running in parallel, with this programme, Highways England has an efficiency challenge of £1.5bn to achieve between 2015 and 2020.
MXTreality began working with Highways England, as their partner for Mixed Reality technologies and solutions, in January 2018. Our relationship divides into three key inter-dependent workstreams:
RESEARCH & DEVELOPMENT
SOLUTION DEVELOPMENT & PRODUCTION
TEST & INNOVATION CENTRE CONSTRUCTION
In partnership with Highways England we are opening a 10,000 sq ft Test and Innovation Centre (TIC) in 2018. This facility will be used to showcase the capabilities of Mixed Reality technologies to Highways England and other government organisations. Alongside the central Mixed Reality facility will be an office for producing Mixed Reality solutions, for building appropriate applications and databases, and for researching the potential uses of other innovative technologies. Current additional trials include road-surface solar Photovoltaic cells, super-efficient wind turbines, and satellite-based communications. We are working closely with local academic institutions to staff the support team that will work alongside our Seattle labs.
The Mixed Reality solutions that we are building with Highways England cover training, construction, site collaboration (using photogrammetry in a shared environment), evaluation of sign placement using eye tracking technology, a customer satisfaction simulator, haptic response, the use of Microsoft Hololens and other Augmented Reality solutions, and on-motorway education.
Each of these solutions is built with accessibility and appropriateness at the forefront of their design. It is essential that they are accessible to all, headset or no headset, that they can be accessed in a variety of ways through a variety of hardware platforms, and that they are entirely appropriate to Highways England’s specific needs in terms of consistency of design, output methods, culture, and internal guidelines.