Virtual simulation will vigorously test new mobility services before putting vehicles on the road

Posted on: February 16, 2017 Posted by: Liz Davidson Comments: 0

Virtual simulation will vigorously test new mobility services before putting vehicles on the road


As part of the Mobility on Demand Laboratory Environment (MODLE) project, Transport Systems Catapult, University of the West of England (UWE Bristol) and Esoterix Systems are developing a micro-simulation platform. The MODLE Simulation Platform gives new, dynamic insight into where people are moving to, from, how and why at a much finer granularity than previous transport modelling systems.

Traffic congestion and related air pollution cause 10,000s of premature deaths and cost billions of pounds every year in the UK alone. However, car use will only go down if alternative options are good enough. The MODLE Simulation Platform uses technology to find and test new services taking some of the risk out of new service implementation.

“The agent based approach is what makes this project exciting” says Kristoff van Leeuwen of the Transport Systems Catapult. “This simulation can drill down to an agent’s movements whereas most similar modelling is at the macro-level”.

The simulation is populated with ‘agents’ which can be thought of as personae generated from various data sources (mobile network, Census and employee postcode data) rather than actual people. The data is anonymised to protect privacy but gives an accurate overall picture of movement around the city.

“The MODLE Simulation Platform is more than a moving picture,” says David Stewart, Esoterix CEO, “it’s a virtual test bed. The agents respond to new options. So the platform first finds pockets of demand that can be met by sustainable transport services and then tests proposed services against other ways of making the same journey. Would new services be sufficiently quick, convenient and cheap to challenge car use?”

The agents are informed by a human behaviour model calibrated by the Centre for Transport and Society (UWE Bristol) .  “We know people choose different transport options for a range of reasons. We look forward to better understanding how people weight those choices and using that behaviour to calibrate the MODLE Simulation Platform,” says Professor John Parkin of UWE Bristol, “Being able to virtually test proposed routes against consumer preferences will help operators develop and offer sustainable services people want.”

A short video about the MODLE Simulation Platform is available here []

The simulation is being developed as part of the MODLE project in Bristol but the platform is transferrable to other cities. To find out more, please contact liz.davidson[at]

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Notes to Editors

MODLE – Mobility on Demand Laboratory Environment

MODLE is a project led by Esoterix Systems with partners Bristol City Council, First Bus, Transport Systems Catapult, and University of the West of England. It is supported by Innovate UK.

Esoterix Systems

Esoterix Systems is a Bristol based technology start-up working in intelligent mobility. The Mobility on Demand Laboratory Environment builds on previous Innovate UK funded projects including proof on concept and feasibility studies.

Innovate UK

Innovate UK is the new name for the Technology Strategy Board – the UK’s innovation agency. Taking a new idea to market is a challenge. Innovate UK funds, supports and connects innovative businesses through a unique mix of people and programmes to accelerate sustainable economic growth. For further information, visit

Bristol City Council

First Bus

University of West of England – Centre for Transport and Society

The Centre for Transport & Society (CTS) specialises in research and knowledge exchange on travel behaviour, transport policy analysis and technological change in the transport sector. CTS’s contribution to the MODLE project draws upon several of our activity themes:

  • How society and the motor vehicle coevolve
  • Travellers’ experiences of the travel environment
  • Understanding the barriers to more inclusive, lower-carbon, active travel
  • Supporting and evaluating sustainable mobility strategies
  • ‘Smart Mobility’: how information-communication technologies interact with transport systems.

During the project CTS will assist with: understanding the demand for MODLE in different market niches; evaluating the services offered in terms of their transport sector impacts and the experiences of users; sharing the experiences of the trials and enabling adoption in other relevant locations beyond Bristol.

Transport Systems Catapult

The Transport Systems Catapult is the UK’s technology and innovation centre for Intelligent Mobility, harnessing emerging technologies to improve the movement of people and goods around the world. We are here to support business growth, increase the UK’s share of the global Intelligent Mobility market, and attract investment – creating jobs and generating long-term economic growth.

We will help sell UK capability on the global stage, while also promoting the UK as a superb test bed for the transportation industry. With a clear emphasis on collaboration, we are bringing together diverse organisations across different modes of transport, breaking down barriers and providing a unique platform for meeting the world’s most pressing transport challenges.

The Transport Systems Catapult is one of an elite network of not-for-profit technology and innovation centres established and overseen by the UK’s innovation agency, Innovate UK. All Catapults obtain their funds from a combination of core Innovate UK support and competitively won business and public sector funding. In addition, the Transport Systems Catapult is receiving substantial funding from the UK’s Department for Transport.

For more information, please visit


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