News Article | April 26, 2017
Louise Stephen used to be one of the millions of commuters in the UK spending hours every day bored and alone in the car. For the past few years the biologist has driven daily from Edinburgh to the outskirts of Glasgow, where she works at a cancer research institute. “I was stuck in traffic on the motorway one day, looking at all the other drivers sitting without passengers,” says the 31-year-old. “And I thought, ‘This is ridiculous – there must be a better way of doing this’. “I was thinking about the environmental impact of so many empty cars, but I was also thinking how mind-numbingly bored I was. So I thought it would be good to start sharing the journey with someone else.” Stephen contacted Cara Jardine, a fellow Edinburgh-to-Glasgow commuter, using Liftshare, the UK’s largest carpooling network, which runs a website and app connecting drivers and passengers. The pair now share petrol costs and spend the hour-long journey in Stephen’s car talking about politics, favourite podcasts and tips for running half-marathons. “We’ve become good friends,” says Jardine, 33. She reckons she saves at least £2,500 a year by carpooling, compared with her main alternative – the train. “The train is just so busy and expensive, so this is a better option for me. It’s pleasant and fun.” As well as helping commuters save money, carpooling advocates argue it could play a big role in alleviating some of the country’s transport pressures and easing air pollution from roads. “The potential for this is huge,” says Ali Clabburn, founder and CEO of Liftshare. “Trains are full, buses are full – the transport system is struggling to cope with the numbers. But there are millions of nearly empty cars that could accommodate more people.” Figures from the Office for National Statistics (ONS) show that 15.3 million people in England and Wales drive themselves to work each day in cars and vans, while only 1.4 million go to work as passengers in those vehicles. That works out at an occupancy rate of around 1.1 person per vehicle. So what’s stopping more commuters from sharing a ride? Is the renowned British reserve, a fear of small talk with strangers, holding people back from arranging a carpool? BlaBlaCar, the largest online carpooling network in Europe, boasts 40 million members around the world, with 4 million people using the service each month. But last year its CEO, Nicolas Brusson, said the Paris-based company had “defocused” efforts in the UK, blaming a “puzzling” British reluctance to share a car journey with a stranger. Clabburn dismisses the idea that Brits are too shy or socially awkward to carpool as “nonsense”. He launched his own service back in 1998 after arranging a lift from Bristol to Norwich on a student union noticeboard. “I became good mates with the guy who gave me a lift and I’m still good mates with him,” he says. He concedes that carpooling is barely scratching the surface in the UK, but sees it as an issue of education. “We need to make more people aware of the option and let them know it’s easy to find people they have something in common with,” he says. “For some people sitting together in silence is totally fine, or playing the radio is fine, or letting other people have a snooze is fine,” adds Clabburn. “But many people who give lift sharing a go find it’s interesting to have a chat and get to know people.” Although it is starting from a low baseline, enthusiasm for ride-sharing is growing, says Clabburn, citing Peter Kay’s sitcom Car Share and James Corden’s Carpool Karaoke as factors driving interest. Liftshare, which is run as a not-for-profit social enterprise, now has more than 500,000 active members in the UK and facilitates over one million shared journeys each month. Uber, which offers discounted shared journeys for users in London through UberPool, is also upbeat about the approach. Although some people have complained that picking up multiple passengers is too much hassle, Uber says around 400,000 people have used the service at least once in the past three months and that it plans to expand it to other British cities. “Car sharing is not only great for people’s wallets, it’s also good for tackling congestion and emissions,” says Jo Bertram, regional general manager for Uber in the UK. “We want to get more people into fewer cars and persuade more people to ditch their own vehicle.” Yet some experts think that if we’re serious about ditching cars, more than persuasion will be needed: transport policy will have to stop privileging motorists. “Carpooling won’t make a significant difference to reducing car use on its own,” says Steve Melia, senior lecturer in transport and planning at UWE Bristol. “It’s possible to reduce car use, but sticks rather than carrots make the biggest difference - measures on fuel tax, the amount of road building, planning decisions about parking. “If you’re prepared to make it more difficult to travel by car, people have a right to expect good alternatives, whether through better public transport, or easier ways to walk or cycle.” Regardless of the transport method they use, almost a quarter of British commuters find travelling to work stressful, according to a recent survey. One of the best arguments for carpooling may be that it gives people the chance to share some of the strain, rather than suffering in silence. “We do tend to whinge about the government and stuff going on in the news quite a lot,” says Edinburgh carpool driver Stephen. “But it’s nice to have someone to have a whinge with.” Sign up to be a Guardian Sustainable Business member and get more stories like this direct to your inbox every week. You can also follow us on Twitter.
News Article | December 11, 2015
A pair of socks embedded with miniaturized microbial fuel cells (MFCs) and fuelled with urine pumped by the wearer's footsteps has powered a wireless transmitter to send a signal to a PC. This is the first self-sufficient system powered by a wearable energy generator based on microbial fuel cell technology. The scientific paper, 'Self-sufficient Wireless Transmitter Powered by Foot-pumped Urine Operating Wearable MFC' is published in Bioinspiration and Biomimetics. The paper describes a lab-based experiment led by Professor Ioannis Ieropoulos, of the Bristol BioEnergy Centre at the University of the West of England (UWE Bristol). The Bristol BioEnergy Centre is based in Bristol Robotics Laboratory, a collaborative partnership between the University of the West of England (UWE Bristol) and the University of Bristol. Soft MFCs embedded within a pair of socks was supplied with fresh urine, circulated by the human operator walking. Normally, continuous-flow MFCs would rely on a mains powered pump to circulate the urine over the microbial fuel cells, but this experiment relied solely on human activity. The manual pump was based on a simple fish circulatory system and the action of walking caused the urine to pass over the MFCs and generate energy. Soft tubes, placed under the heels, ensured frequent fluid push–pull by walking. The wearable MFC system successfully ran a wireless transmission board, which was able to send a message every two minutes to the PC-controlled receiver module. Professor Ieropoulos says, “Having already powered a mobile phone with MFCs using urine as fuel, we wanted to see if we could replicate this success in wearable technology. We also wanted the system to be entirely self-sufficient, running only on human power – using urine as fuel and the action of the foot as the pump.” “This work opens up possibilities of using waste for powering portable and wearable electronics. For example, recent research shows it should be possible to develop a system based on wearable MFC technology to transmit a person's coordinates in an emergency situation. At the same time this would indicate proof of life since the device will only work if the operator's urine fuels the MFCs.” Microbial fuel cells (MFCs) use bacteria to generate electricity from waste fluids. They tap into the biochemical energy used for microbial growth and convert it directly into electricity. This technology can use any form of organic waste and turn it into useful energy without relying on fossil fuels, making this a valuable green technology. The Centre has recently launched a prototype urinal in partnership withOxfam that uses pee-power technology to light cubicles in refugee camps.
News Article | December 11, 2015
The scientific paper, 'Self-sufficient Wireless Transmitter Powered by Foot-pumped Urine Operating Wearable MFC' is published in Bioinspiration and Biomimetics. The paper describes a lab-based experiment led by Professor Ioannis Ieropoulos, of the Bristol BioEnergy Centre at the University of the West of England (UWE Bristol). The Bristol BioEnergy Centre is based in Bristol Robotics Laboratory, a collaborative partnership between the University of the West of England (UWE Bristol) and the University of Bristol. Soft MFCs embedded within a pair of socks was supplied with fresh urine, circulated by the human operator walking. Normally, continuous-flow MFCs would rely on a mains powered pump to circulate the urine over the microbial fuel cells, but this experiment relied solely on human activity. The manual pump was based on a simple fish circulatory system and the action of walking caused the urine to pass over the MFCs and generate energy. Soft tubes, placed under the heels, ensured frequent fluid push–pull by walking. The wearable MFC system successfully ran a wireless transmission board, which was able to send a message every two minutes to the PC-controlled receiver module. Professor Ieropoulos says, "Having already powered a mobile phone with MFCs using urine as fuel, we wanted to see if we could replicate this success in wearable technology. We also wanted the system to be entirely self-sufficient, running only on human power – using urine as fuel and the action of the foot as the pump." "This work opens up possibilities of using waste for powering portable and wearable electronics. For example, recent research shows it should be possible to develop a system based on wearable MFC technology to transmit a person's coordinates in an emergency situation. At the same time this would indicate proof of life since the device will only work if the operator's urine fuels the MFCs." Microbial fuel cells (MFCs) use bacteria to generate electricity from waste fluids. They tap into the biochemical energy used for microbial growth and convert it directly into electricity. This technology can use any form of organic waste and turn it into useful energy without relying on fossil fuels, making this a valuable green technology. The Centre has recently launched a prototype urinal in partnership with Oxfam that uses pee-power technology to light cubicles in refugee camps. Explore further: Urine could be the answer to cheaper electricity More information: M Taghavi et al. Self sufficient wireless transmitter powered by foot-pumped urine operating wearable MFC, Bioinspiration & Biomimetics (2015). DOI: 10.1088/1748-3190/11/1/016001
News Article | February 1, 2016
The 'Flourish' project announced today is co-funded by Innovate UK and involves partners from across the South West who will work together to develop a CAV that integrates the mobility needs of older adults with a secure and connected infrastructure. The development has the potential to revolutionise mobility for older adults, reducing loneliness and giving people who do not drive the freedom to make spontaneous choices without relying on others. The work also promises to lead to thousands of new jobs in the South West, in supply chain and product development. Associate Professor Praminda Caleb-Solly from Bristol Robotics Laboratory explains, "Ageing brings a host of physical and cognitive impairments, together with long-term conditions, resulting in the need for added support. Maintaining health and independence, and participating as active members of society, requires people to be mobile. "Studies show that cessation of driving can lead to reduced social activity, poor health and depression. In the UK, over one million older adults say they always, or often, feel lonely. This research would mean that people in this situation wouldn't have to depend on others for transportation and would have the ability to make spontaneous choices. "UWE researchers with expertise in applied psychology and human factors, assistive technology and understanding people's transport requirements, will work with older adults with a range of needs and expectations. "This will result in the development of a set of key scenarios considering people's travel needs and barriers and constraints related to the participants' accessibility needs. Our research findings will further support inclusive public service design and policymaking." The team will also contribute to the design and development (through ongoing human factors testing) of adaptable Human-Machine interfaces (HMIs) which are responsive to people's different accessibility needs. Target-user groups will have a complex range of co-morbidities which can result in impaired vision, loss of hearing, painful or restricted mobility, poor movement control and issues with balance and difficulties with speech, memory and attention, including occasional confusion. Enabling these user groups to communicate intuitively, confidently and safely with an autonomous vehicle requires sophisticated multi-modal interaction capability, and intelligent sensing and responsiveness, which mainstream autonomous vehicles won't necessarily support. The research will address these challenges by building on the teams' world class experience of human factors, assistive technology design and psychology. Associate Professor Caleb-Solly continues, "We will develop a driving simulator that will be integrated into a pod shell and trialled with end-users as part of an iterative design process. This will enable us to optimise the designs of the vehicle interfaces to make them intuitive and easy to use, providing useful journey information and enhancing the journey experience." The findings from working on the simulator development and testing will be transferred to designing the actual physical interfaces which will be integrated into a real pod. A series of physical trials in a range of contexts to test usability and integration with other information sources will then be conducted. Real-world trials with older adults will also assess user experience and user interaction with the human-machine interfaces, focussing on subjective, performance and physiological response measures. Experience of running the trials will enable the development of a standard assessment framework to determine HMI and vehicle adaptations needed for different types of disability needs. This will give car manufacturers incorporating this technology a competitive edge in the market, attracting a wider range of customers and increasing market penetration. The UWE contribution to FLOURISH continues 'the pathway to Driverless Cars' (Department for Transport Feb 2015) building on the platform provided by the VENTURER project and moving closer to the realisation of connected autonomous vehicles(CAVs) sharing roads with current manually driven vehicles and other road users. In FLOURISH, co-designing with people with some level of cognitive and physical age-related impairments, the resulting simulator test environment and adaptable user interface for CAV operation will also be suitable for others with special needs as well as the wider public. As part of their research on assistive robotics for independent living, the Bristol Robotics Laboratory (BRL) at UWE collaborate closely with Designability, who have expertise in developing assistive technologies for older adults, and working with researchers in applied psychology and human factors, will extend their expertise in this area. Professor Tony Pipe from BRL who will research the security systems used to drive the vehicle. Professor Pipe said, "Security of the systems driving the vehicles is absolutely essential. We don't want the cars to be hacked. Systems anticipate total connectivity to real time traffic conditions so that routes can be controlled and monitored." Associate Professor Praminda Caleb-Solly from BRL will contribute to the design of the adaptable Human-Machine Interfaces and evaluation studies, investigating innovate ways for visualising data from multiple sources to provide contextually relevant and engaging information to the person in the vehicle, through a range of modalities. Professor Graham Parkhurst and Dr Ian Shergold from UWE Bristol's Centre for Transport and Society will contribute their expertise on older citizens' mobility needs and the importance of being mobile both for practical reasons but also due to the wellbeing benefits of being socially connected through movement. Professor Parkhurst said, "It is important that the products developed by Flourish work effectively alongside the existing services for supporting older citizen's travel. The CTS input will focus on ensuring that successful integration." Professor Chris Alford and Dr Phil Morgan from UWE Bristol Department of Psychology will be leading the applied psychology and human factors aspects of the project. Professor Chris Alford adds: "We will be looking at human factors aspects by devising an adaptive human-machine interface connected to various in-car systems using simulated tests that emulate journeys so that we can be sure that people feel confident and comfortable. For example this might include making the instruments like speedometers larger so that people with visual impairments can view speeds easily." Dr Phil Morgan adds: "AVs are the future of driving and are already developing at a galloping pace. Through FLOURISH, we have the perfect opportunity to influence the design of interfaces that people will interact with when using AVs and CAVs. We will optimise the design and usability of these interfaces through psychology and human factors testing and multiple rounds of user-trials so that design is informed by, for example, human needs, expectations, and cognitive ability. We recognise that it is not simply the case of designing a one-size-fits-all interface, especially as the sample we will be designing for during this project are likely to have varying requirements. For example, whereas one person may benefit from larger and less crowded displays, another may benefit more from more audible information. Bespoke solutions are crucial and cutting-edge CAV interfaces for use by older adults should be adaptable based upon individual requirements. We also need to get the balance of interface information right, such that people have access to enough information (e.g., vehicle related, external conditions related) without feeling over-loaded or indeed under-loaded. The FLOURISH project and partnership will allow us to achieve all of this and more." Explore further: Could robots help older people look after themselves
News Article | January 8, 2016
The unique hand-held instrument can measure precisely how much dirt has accumulated on an aeroplane's surface and determine whether the build-up increases drag. Plane operators can use data collected by the scanner to optimise aircraft cleaning routines and ensure their fleet is as aerodynamic as possible. It is estimated airlines using the ECOTEC system – developed by academics from UWE Bristol in association with concept designer Intercede Ventures Limited – could cut their fuel bills by as much as one per cent. One of the world's largest charter airlines is trialling the patented system in six of its aircraft ahead of the product being launched into the market this year. Intercede worked with researchers from UWE's Institute of Bio-Sensing Technology to develop the system, using the UWE team's considerable expertise in sensor system design, fabrication and evaluation, together with the university's wind tunnels for early testing and calculations. The company's managing director Graham Mimms said the technology – which uses lasers, light beams and mirrors – also had applications in the automotive, marine, rail and wind turbine industries because all use aero-dynamic surfaces. Graham said: "A clean aircraft is a more efficient aircraft but that's not always been too easy to prove. We thought 'If we can prove it, airlines would keep them clean and efficient' and as a result more environmentally friendly. "Engineers will soon be able to walk around the aircraft with our patented and industry approved instrument to analyse which surface sections need cleaning to keep it in its most efficient state. If you clean it by applying an industry approved cleaning compound you will have an aircraft aerodynamically more efficient. "We detect when it becomes beneficial to re-clean specific areas of the aircraft as degradation (increased drag) is not even across the aircraft surface. By doing this, we can keep the aircraft within an efficiency envelope. By following our protocols, airlines will be able to maintain the surfaces in a more efficient state. An aircraft can look clean to the eye but not be aero-dynamically at its best – our instrument can detect this." Graham said airlines' approach to cleaning their planes varied, hampered by the high water usage (sometimes more than 20,000 litres per wet wash) which is not eco-friendly. But he said the ECOTEC system would generally recommend the dry washing of aircraft with environmentally-friendly cleaning products supplied by project collaborative partner Chemetall, a global supplier of aircraft-approved cleaning and maintenance compounds and products. He said: "What we are recommending is more labour intensive (dry washing) but the resulting efficiency can be greater. If carbon emissions can be reduced by reduced drag efficiencies, airlines may also be able to benefit from reduced taxes." Graham, who along with his two fellow founding directors have more than 100 years of experience in the airline industry at senior managerial and director level, said his company decided to work with UWE because of its facilities, expertise and close ties with the aviation industry. He said: "A big deciding factor was the fact UWE has considerable expertise in sensor technology development coupled with appropriate facilities, for example three wind tunnels. There is duel speed sub-sonic one and an ultra-sonic one. Using these was the basis of the initial research to prove that drag can be measured and could be related to the efficiency of the aeroplane. "We also looked at the history of the university and the way it is supported by the big names in the aviation industry including aircraft manufacturers and aero engine suppliers. For us it had the right credentials for the technological aspects of what we are doing." The development of the surface analyser has been supported with £100,000 in grants from UWE's Business Technology Centre, iNets South West and Innovation 4 Growth. Investment firm Angels4Angels has also recently backed the venture with a six-figure sum. Graham said: "We are delighted to welcome the support and financial expertise that Angels4Angels brings to our project, enabling us to focus our efforts on further product development and marketing our carbon footprint reduction systems to international aviation and other markets. "Through our collaborative working relationship with the international aircraft cleaning manufacturer Chemetall – Intercede Ventures will commence marketing its airline carbon footprint reduction aircraft surface management service in 2016 through Chemetall's global aviation distribution network alongside its own marketing activities."
News Article | November 23, 2016
Four out of five collision investigators surveyed for the research indicated mobile phone involvement in non-fatal accidents was under-reported, with half agreeing the role of phones was even overlooked in fatal crashes. Three quarters of British officers participating in the online poll undertaken by the University of the West of England (UWE Bristol) were unable to report the full proportion of road accidents in their force area linked with mobile phone use each year. A similar percentage of officers indicated that better mechanisms to quickly analyse and investigate phone usage would be most likely to improve data collection. Dr Paul Pilkington, a senior lecturer in public health at UWE Bristol, worked with the National Roads Policing Intelligence Forum to survey 134 road traffic collision investigation officers as part of his study into the reporting and recording of mobile phone involvement in accidents. For his research, Dr Pilkington asked officers across the UK about the procedure they followed in the aftermath of a collision. He was told phones were only routinely seized and analysed in fatal and life-changing injury crashes. Among the responses from officers were: "Due to the costs and timeliness of such enquiries this is an area that, in my view, is under-investigated…if properly investigated each and every time, the proportion of RCTs where phone use was contributory would increase significantly." "We take persons to court where we have seen them on their mobile phones and it gets thrown out. That is with a police witness, so it wouldn't go through on 3rd party evidence." Dr Pilkington said the findings of the survey raised serious questions about investigation tactics, and described the under-reporting of mobile phone use in collisions as a 'massive problem'. He said: "Police officers recognise that using mobile phones while driving is an important risk factor for being involved in a road traffic crash. This is consistent with global estimates of the burden of road traffic related deaths and injuries caused by using a phone while driving. "But officers in our survey consistently registered concerns about having enough power or resources to investigate whether a mobile phone was being used at the time of a road traffic crash. Because of resource and legal considerations, only in fatal and life-changing injury crashes are phones seized and analysed. In all other crash types, including those involving serious injuries, use of mobile phones is usually not investigated. "To me, this is a massive problem. If the police can't detect the full extent of this behaviour then we are missing an important part of collision investigation. "It leaves a significant gap not only in terms of enforcement, but also monitoring of the role of phones in crashes. The result is significant under-reporting of the role of mobile phones in road traffic crashes, as well as inadequate justice for the victims of those affected by the actions of drivers using their phones behind the wheel." Dr Pilkington said investigating whether a mobile phone was being used at the time of a collision was resource intensive but technological solutions were on the horizon. He said: "Phones have to be sent away for specialist analysis, and there are sometimes issues in proving the exact time of use in relation to the crash. Time-ascertainment is made more difficult by the long process involved in the analysis of the phone. "However, there are possible technological solutions. In New York, a State Senate Bill currently in committee is discussing the introduction of a hand-held 'textalyzer' device, which allows officers to analyse mobile phone usage data at the roadside. Such technology offers the potential to improve enforcement and monitoring of the role of mobile phones in road traffic collisions." The results of an RAC survey revealed in September suggested the number of motorists illegally using mobile phones while behind the wheel was on the rise. Some 31 per cent of drivers taking part in the survey admitted they used a handheld phone behind the wheel compared with eight per cent in 2014. The Department for Transport will introduce tougher punishments for offending drivers from next year, with penalty points doubling from three to six and fines rising from £100 to £200. Dr Pilkington, who is now working on a review examining the effectiveness of legislation governing mobile phone use and driving, said: "People are using their phones because they don't think they will be caught. The penalty points have gone up, and the fine, but unless it's a sky-high fine or a ban, drivers will continue to chance it. "Distraction driving has become a big policy issue and the World Health Organisation has started to talk about it more. "When you see adverts for cars with built-in dashboard consoles for checking email and Facebook, it is at odds with reducing distraction driving. But those things are what appeal to people, in terms of staying connected to one another. "Unless technology has a solution, advances in phone technology are likely to make problems worse." Dr Pilkington has co-authored a literature review called 'Mobile phone use while driving: Underestimation of a global threat' published earlier this year in the Journal of Transport and Health. It can be accessed here. Explore further: Groundbreaking review on counteracting mobile phone distraction while driving More information: Janet Ige et al, Mobile phone use while driving: Underestimation of a global threat, Journal of Transport & Health (2016). DOI: 10.1016/j.jth.2015.11.003
Adamatzky A.,UWE Bristol
Artificial Life | Year: 2013
The plasmodium of the acellular slime mold Physarum polycephalum is a gigantic single cell visible to the unaided eye. The cell shows a rich spectrum of behavioral patterns in response to environmental conditions. In a series of simple experiments we demonstrate how to make computing, sensing, and actuating devices from the slime mold. We show how to program living slime mold machines by configurations of repelling and attracting gradients and demonstrate the workability of the living machines on tasks of computational geometry, logic, and arithmetic. © 2013 Massachusetts Institute of Technology.
News Article | April 18, 2016
Television viewers are turning their noses up at using mobile devices to enhance their favourite programmes, according to research carried out at the University of the West of England (UWE Bristol).
News Article | April 25, 2016
Motor manufacturers need to ensure new vehicles are cleaner in the wake of a UK inquiry which revealed diesel car emissions are far higher on the road than in laboratory tests. That is the view of a leading air quality expert from the University of the West of England (UWE Bristol) who believes the investigation's findings should have a significant impact on the industry.
News Article | October 29, 2015
A pioneering project which could dramatically reduce the quantity of rubble from demolished buildings going to landfill is being developed at the University of the West of England (UWE Bristol).