BOLTON Institute is a major partner in an important new transport technology research project. It includes putting the spotlight on the increasing number of older drivers on the road. The Government-sponsored Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council is funding the Telematics Application Road Map project (TARM) to the tune of £430,000.

Industry and the Greater Manchester Urban Traffic Control Unit are contributing equal cash support - raising the overall value of the project to more than £800,000.

Bolton's partners in the project are the universities of Warwick, Coventry and Loughborough along with leading industrial concerns and the Departments of the Environment, Transport and the Regions.

The award follows a grant valued at £1.4 million made to Bolton Institute by EPSRC to finance research into Intelligent Transport Systems.

Dr Christopher Nwagboso, head of the Transport Telematics Research Group at Bolton Institute, says Transport telematics are big business for the UK and any North-west companies which wish to get involved.

He said sales of telematics products such as in-vehicle route guidance and navigation systems were expanding in all major markets.

He explained: "Transport telematics involves the use of 2001 technology to improve traffic control, air quality monitoring and surveillance systems, route guidance, vehicle control, fleet control and driver assistance."

Researchers will be looking in particular at the growing number of older drivers behind the wheel.

Dr Nwagboso said: "By the year 2031, 23 per cent of the UK population will be over retirement age with the expecation of continuing to drive for many years.

"The development of equipment to assist vision and judgement of speed could be especially useful in enabling older drivers to continue to drive safely."

He went on: "Development in traffic control, air quality monitoring, route guidance, surveillance systems and driver information systems can help vehicles avoid traffic hold-ups, increase efficiency and reduce pollution as vehicles spend less time in traffic jams.

"A further benefit will be developments in fleet control technologies which will increase the efficiency of public transport, making it both more dependable and attractive for potential users."

The efforts of Dr Nwagboso and others, including the Greater Manchester Passenger Transport Executive, could provide useful material for the integrated transport White Paper to be issued by Deputy Prime Minister John Prescott.

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