Home » Costain mentors AI tech firms in trials for roadworks innovation

Costain mentors AI tech firms in trials for roadworks innovation

by Mark Cantrell
A birds-eye-view of a road network covered in digital symbols

Costain is providing pro bono support to two proposals to trial the use of artificial intelligence (AI) technology in National Highways projects in 2024.

National Highways, supported by Connected Places Catapult, launched a competition to encourage innovative solutions to improve road users’ experience of roadworks on England’s motorways and A-roads.

Two of the winning proposals have benefited from Costain’s mentorship, and extensive experience of complex delivery and customer service, and continue to be supported by the company as the trials get underway this month.

Cambridge-based Alchera Technologies worked with Costain to propose using AI technology to monitor data around how roadworks and road closures impact driver behaviour and traffic flow.

Powered by graph convolutional neural networks providing predicted traffic data, the trial sets out to enable road engineers and traffic controllers to quickly respond to changing conditions and make informed decisions when conducting essential roadworks.

Costain has also been working with Wordnerds, a data company based in Gateshead, and recently teamed up with Kier to help create an even stronger solution to some of the challenges faced across the National Highways supply chain.

The trial will involve using AI-powered text analytics tools to monitor and evaluate online comments in relation to local roadworks, whether on social media, blogs or public forums. This data is expected to provide project delivery teams with a better understanding of customer perceptions in order to make evidenced-based improvements on project sites, benefiting road users and residents alike.

David Taylor, interim managing director for transportation at Costain, said: “The winning proposals are hugely compelling because they have the potential to solve complex, often intangible infrastructure problems with a clever blend of cutting-edge technology and deep industry knowledge.

“Our customers increasingly value working with suppliers who can tackle difficult challenges with a range of skillsets. By combining our extensive experience in road planning, construction and customer engagement with innovative technology such as data analytics and AI, we can make essential road network improvements in better, more efficient ways, to the benefit of the UK’s road users and residents.”

Both Alchera Technologies and Wordnerds have been mentored by Costain throughout the competition process, learning from customer and traffic management experts to see how the technology could be applied to real-world scenarios.

Both companies have each received up to £60,000 from National Highways to take their ideas forward to trial early in 2024.

Image credit: jamesteohart/Shutterstock


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