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Big Data and Transport:
Understanding and assessing options

Go to report:
Big Data and Transport: Understanding and assessing options















The 21st century is awash with data from sensors, vehicles, smartphones, parking systems, inventory tracking systems, ticketing systems, geographic applications, buildings, energy distribution networks and multiple other digital and analogue sources including video streams. There are tremendous upsides from the use and fusion of these data streams to better manage and optimise transport services and improve safety. There are also associated risks since much of this data is highly personal in nature. It looks at the considerations authorities should have regarding the creation, processing, conditions of use and access to data that could help them carry out their mandates.


We undertook this study on the basis of meetings and discussions amongst project partners, desktop research and invited the contribution of an external expert group – Carlo Ratti Associati in conjunction with the MIT SENSEable City Laboratory.

What we found

  • The volume and speeds at which data today is generated, processed and stored is unprecedented and will fundamentally alter the transport sector
  • Embarked sensors and data storage/transmission capacity in vehicles provide new opportunities for enhanced safety for both conventional and increasingly automated vehicles
  • Multi-platform sensing technologies are able to precisely locate and track people, vehicles and objects in a way that has never before been possible
  • The fusion of purposely-sensed, opportunistically-sensed and crowd-sourced data generates new knowledge regarding transport activity and flows. It also creates unique privacy risks
  • Location and trajectory data is inherently personal in nature and difficult to anonymise effectively
  • Data protection policies are lagging behind new modes of data collection and uses – this is especially true for location data

Policy Insights

  • Road safety improvements can be accelerated through the specification and harmonisation of a limited set of safety-related vehicle data elements
  • Transport authorities will need to audit the data they use in order to understand what it says and does not say and how it can best be used
  • More effective protection of location data will have to be designed upfront into technologies, algorithms and processes
  • New models of public-private partnership involving data-sharing may be necessary to leverage both public and private benefits
  • Data visualisation will play an increasingly more import role in policy dialogue

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