Oxford University partners with Oxford Bus Company to pinpoint Oxford pollution hotspots

Researchers from the Department of Engineering Science are collaborating with the Oxford Bus Company to conduct a detailed emissions study on buses across the city.

Department of Engineering Science partners with Oxford Bus Company to pinpoint ‘pollution hotspots’ in Oxford City Centre.

Dr Felix Leach, Postdoctoral Research Assistant at the Department of Engineering Science, has been measuring NOx emissions on buses on key routes operating within the city. NOx – oxides of Nitrogen – is formed when combustion occurs in the presence of nitrogen in areas of high traffic. Using highly accurate Global Positioning Systems (GPS), the emissions measurements can identify exactly where NOx is emitted to within 30cm.

NOx emissions are a well-known pollutant which is harmful to human health, particularly for existing heart and lung conditions. NOx levels in Oxford vary significantly, with some areas having high levels. The study will help establish exactly where in Oxford NOx is being produced and whether any changes can be made to reduce levels. This could include better road layouts, revised traffic calming and other measures to avoid buses staying longer than is necessary in one place.

Dr Leach says: “I am delighted to be collaborating with Oxford Bus Company, Oxford City Council, and Cambustion on this very significant and world leading study of NOx emissions in the city centre and its surroundings. Oxford Bus Company’s visionary support in enabling us to perform detailed measurements on buses in service is unique”.

“The accurate real world data that we have collected is allowing our research team to identify the precise locations and causes of NOx emissions in the city – be they due to the placement of a speed-bump or a set of traffic lights. The understanding gained from this data will enable the development of more effective operating strategies for NOx reduction, which should lead to improved air quality for everyone.”

Under Oxford City Council and Oxfordshire County Council proposals the city centre could become the world’s first Zero Emissions Zone, which would see all polluting vehicles phased out from 2020. As vehicle technology develops it is proposed the Zero Emissions Zone will extend to cover all non-electric vehicles across the city centre by 2035.

Phil Southall, Oxford Bus Company Managing Director, says, “We have collaborated with the University of Oxford to really establish where the pollution hotpots are in key areas of the City and what measures can be utilised to reduce them in conjunction with and in addition to the Zero Emission Zone. We believe this forensic analysis will be of great benefit to key stakeholders in shaping the future of the city”.

Dr Leach will be measuring emissions on buses again later in July, on the number 5 route to Blackbird Leys.


This article first appeared on the website of the Department of Engineering Science, University of Oxford on 28th June 2018.

Seminar: the impact of rapid urbanisation

An Oxford multidisciplinary seminar – part of the Kellogg Urban Knowledge Exchange series

Around 1.5 million people are moving into the world’s cities every week. By 2050 there will be an additional 2 billion urban citizens mostly concentrated in developing countries. It places huge demands on infrastructure, housing, services, job creation, climate and environment. At the same time it presents opportunities for business, society and sustainable growth.

This seminar set out to explore the impact of rapid urbanisation, the critical lack of capacity amongst some of the most vulnerable countries and how the past may hold the key to unlocking sustainable development.

The University of Oxford asked four leading voices in the field to share their knowledge, research and pitch their views on the subject. This event is one in a series examining key urban issues.


This article first appeared on the website of the University of Oxford on 27th June 2018.

Oxford Robotics Institute to put a team of robots to the test at Blenheim

The Oxford Robotics Institute (Department of Engineering Science, University of Oxford) is to put a team of robots to the test at Blenheim as part of a new joint initiative.

Ranging from driverless cars to legged robots, the Oxfordshire UNESCO World Heritage Site will be used as a proving ground for a range of robotic platforms over the coming months.

Initially a specially-adapted ORI Range Rover, developed in collaboration with Jaguar Land Rover, will drive around the tracks of High Park – home to the greatest collection of ancient oak trees in Europe.

The Range Rover is equipped with vision and Lidar sensors which will allow ORI to gather data in an off-road forestry environment. This will be used to test algorithms for localisation and perception for autonomy in challenging environments. The data will also provide a valuable source of information to those researching the ancient woodland.

The plan is to trial other robotic platforms; including legged robots within different areas of the Estate.

It is hoped the new collaboration between the University of Oxford and Blenheim will also provide a unique chance for cutting-edge STEM education and outreach work to be carried out within a hugely historic environment.

Jointly the aim is to increase awareness of Robotics and AI to society in general and also to provide Blenheim Palace visitors with a greater understanding of this fascinating and fastgrowing technological sector.

“This is an extremely exciting opportunity for Blenheim to support the Oxford Robotics Institute who are at the forefront of developing technology and it marks the beginning of a much closer relationship between ourselves and University of Oxford” said Roy Cox, Head of Estates at Blenheim.

The Oxford Robotics Institute enjoys a world leading reputation in mobile autonomy, developing machines and robots which map, navigate through and understand their environments.

Professor Paul Newman, director of ORI, said: “The ORI’s collaboration with Blenheim represents the opportunity to join the old with the new, to run and represent in juxtaposition much of what’s great about Oxfordshire’s history and its future. Great robots in a great place”.

This article originally appeared on the website of University of Oxford’s Department of Engineering Science on 26th June 2018.

Oxfordshire aims to be a national leader in tackling air pollution with ‘zero emission zone’

As leaders from England’s most car-polluted cities meet the environment secretary, Michael Gove, today, Oxfordshire councils are pushing ahead with bold proposals to create the world’s first zero-emission zone in Oxford and initiatives to tackle air quality in other congestion hotspots in the county, including Abingdon, Henley and Wallingford.

The county and Oxford city councils are currently looking at ambitious proposals to create a zero emission zone (ZEZ) in the city. This would be a long-term project to enable road users and transport operators to plan for the necessary changes, including the use of zero emission vehicles.

Despite a 37% per cent reduction in levels of toxic nitrogen dioxide across Oxford in the last decade, parts of the city centre are still failing to meet the legal limit on the pollutant.

The proposals also assume the technology and take up of zero emission electrical vehicles will continue to accelerate. The first steps in creating a zero-emission zone in Oxford could be in place as early as 2020.

Public consultation in 2017 showed strong support for the ZEZ but also emphasised the need for the two councils to support businesses, transport operators and the public in making the transition. The ambition is to ensure that Oxfordshire becomes a leader in tackling transport challenges linked to air pollution.

Oxfordshire County Council’s Director for Planning and Place Sue Halliwell said:

“Oxford has been identified as a city with a major air quality problem and we are looking at a range of long-term measures to tackle congestion and reduce pollution, including a zero emission zone.

“We are delighted that the environment secretary is making this issue a national priority and believe Oxfordshire has an opportunity to become a national leader in tackling air pollution through bold transport initiatives.”

The ZEZ is part of a strategy to reduce congestion and pollution in Oxford by rolling out segregated cycle routes, bus priority, electric charging points, and other measures.

The city and county councils have agreed in principle to progress the plans to the next stage, following discussions with transport operators and other stakeholders. Detailed proposals are now being developed for further consultation with stakeholders, including residents and local businesses.

There are several air quality hotspots outside Oxford, including Henley, Wallingford, Watlington, Abingdon, Botley and Marcham. Options for tackling air quality in those areas are actively being developed by South Oxfordshire and Vale of White Horse district councils and the county council. In November 2017, South Oxfordshire District Council adopted a Low Emission Strategy.

This article first appeared on the website of Oxfordshire County Council on 20th June 2018.

Oxford Brookes student wins investment for app tackling accessibility in cities

A postgraduate student from the School of Architecture at Oxford Brookes has won investment after competing in University Alliance’s national Enterprise Stars competition.

Last week (14 June) University Alliance ran their annual Alliance-wide showcase and a competition to attract investment for student start-ups.

Enterprise Stars 2018 is a programme with student experience at its heart and aims to find the enterprise stars of tomorrow.

The one-day enterprise festival was hosted by Salford University at MediaCityUK culminating in the opportunity for students to win investment and business advice from a panel of investors.

Entrants from 13 universities pitched their ideas and Sophia Bannert, studying MArchD Applied Design in Architecture at Oxford Brookes, was one of three successful winners.

She scooped £1,000 for her Bee-Able app which aims to transform cities into places of equality and inclusivity, whether people are wheelchair users, visually impaired, parents with pushchairs or just carrying heavy suitcases. Sophia is drawing on her studies to devise a tool to tackle the physical and social barriers in cities for people with disabilities or access needs.


Bee-Able is currently seeking seed funding – so I am delighted to have won this investment from Enterprise Stars, which will help to propel Bee-Able into the pilot stage, and start to tackle inaccessible cities.

– Sophia Bannert, MArchD Applied Design in Architecture, Oxford Brookes University


She has developed a prototype map-based app which allows users to rate and review their city’s accessibility. It also allows them to find out which are the most accessible businesses and book ahead, with confidence, through the use of ‘scores’ on the doors of top-rated places and venues. For those businesses with low scores, Bee-Able will also offer bespoke architectural, planning and project management apps to address any accessibility issues highlighted by app users.

Last year Sophia’s project won a design award from the Royal Society of Arts (RSA).

Commenting on her win, Sophia said: “Over the past year I have been continuing to develop Bee-Able, with the support and guidance of some fantastic mentors including the Enterprise Support team at Oxford Brookes, from whom I was very grateful to receive an Enterprise Support Award in March.

“Bee-Able is currently seeking seed funding – so I am delighted to have won this investment from Enterprise Stars, which will help to propel Bee-Able into the pilot stage, and start to tackle inaccessible cities.”

Investors at the event included Tim Foster MBE, social entrepreneur and Olympic gold medallist, who works as a professional business coach mentor to major companies as well as mentoring students at Oxford Brookes University.

More information about Enterprise Stars 2018 can be found on University Alliance’s website.

Visit the School of Architecture’s website to find out about available undergraduate and postgraduate courses.

This article first appeared on the website of Oxford Brookes University on 18th June 2018.
Image credit: University of Salford, Sophia Bannert (second from left) and Tim Foster, MBE (first on the right)