Stuart Ballingall: Telematically speaking
Throughout his career, Stuart Ballingall has been drawn to transport and the technology involved. “I never thought of being in any other sector”. These days, he’s at the helm of the Transport Certification Australia (TCA). TCA leads in managing, developing and delivering services under the National Telematics Framework. Using a platform of digital infrastructure and supporting agreements and processes, the TCA brings together transport operators, road managers and technology providers to enable improved public purpose outcomes from road transport.
What are you working on now at TCA?
Since May 2019, I’ve been the Executive General Manager of TCA. My key role is to continue developing and evolving the National Telematics Framework for government and industry to leverage. Today, data and information are driving decision-making on policy, network planning, investment and operations. The demand for information from road transport is continuing to grow.
How did you gravitate to studying/working in the mobility field?
My whole career has been in transport. As a mechanical engineering graduate, I started off working in the automotive industry, including with Ford and Holden. My roles ranged from planning future models through to production. I then moved from industry to government, leading a range of programs relating to information management and intelligent transport systems. I also led a national program on connected and automated vehicles for many years while at Austroads.
My role at TCA provides a good mix of what I’ve done in my career to date. It provides a platform to continue to support the deployment of technologies in road transport to enable societal benefit, which continues to be a driving passion for me.
What transport research have you been involved in?
I have been involved in a range of transport research projects and initiatives over the years. A key research activity for me at the moment is a PhD project that I am leading at the University of Melbourne, which is looking at safety assurance for automated driving systems.
These are adaptive systems capable of learning from their driving environment and changing their driving functionality while in service. Current regulatory frameworks are challenged by such systems. Our research project is looking into emerging safety assurance concepts that could be considered as part of future regulatory and non-regulatory frameworks to enable safe outcomes.
In your field, what’s the one transport project you’d undertake that would have a quick, appreciable impact?
It would be a project that could positively influence the market deployment of proven safety technologies. This would include active safety systems in vehicles, such as autonomous emergency braking and lane keep assist. It may also include smart roadside technologies, such as dynamic traffic control systems. Often the uptake rate of technology can be slow if left to market demand alone.
A project that could result in an accelerated uptake of proven technologies could help us to achieve safety, productivity and sustainability outcomes sooner than we otherwise could.
Other than what you’re doing now, and what you’ve previously done, is there something new, perhaps even a new field for you entirely, that you’d like to take on?
Vehicles are increasingly having wireless communication embedded in them and sensors that can monitor things about the road environment. They’re creating a wealth of data that didn’t exist in older vehicles.
The intelligence we can create with that data has enormous potential for us to better plan and operate transport networks. It could also identify countermeasures that are effective in reducing road trauma, and improving efficiencies and sustainability benefits if deployed well. We need to have a level of understanding that these technologies are safe and effective, not some black box we don’t understand.
I think there is further work that needs to be done on the rights to access and use data from the range of sources that are now in the transport ecosystem. Some excellent work is already being progressed. Ensuring that it is well informed and an appropriate level of collaboration and harmonisation is occurring will continue to be a challenge.
In the next three-to-five years, what in transport/smart city technology are you most excited about?
My interest is definitely in how technology will be developed, adopted, and used.
The pace of tech developments is easy to get excited about, but it is how they can be used in a transport context to deliver positive outcomes that is of particular interest. Often technologies are used in innovative ways that were not initially designed for, which can have both positive and negative outcomes, so ensuring a good level of collaboration and informed decision making will continue to be a necessity going forward. But that, I think, should be viewed as an exciting thing.
What’s your strategy to ‘break down the silos’, or to put it another way, convince organisations that sharing their data is imperative in the 21st Century?
A key strategic approach I like to take is to show stakeholders what insights can be extracted from data. Often, people don’t really understand such insights until they visually see it. The use of contemporary visualisation tools and clear communication are key component to achieving this.
Another key strategic approach is about finding a favourable value proposition for each stakeholder. Particularly where data might have a personal dimension to it, there is often a reluctance to make this data accessible to others. But, if stakeholders are to receive value in return, then the case for exchanging data can become more compelling.
How’s the rollout of the National Telematics Framework going?
The evolution of the National Telematics Framework continues. We have been working closely with industry and with regulators on the development of new telematics applications at new levels of assurance. Support from policy makers has been positive, and we expect the number and range of vehicles enrolled in the framework to progressively increase. Our analysis and reporting services are also continuing to evolve, in step with the evolving needs of our stakeholders.
What are you presenting about at iMOVE’s upcoming Transport of Tomorrow 2020 conference?
I will be providing an update on developments with the National Telematics Framework. This will include the new applications that have been developed, new schemes that are being deployed, and the analysis and reporting that is being generated.
I also hope to provide a few use cases that can clearly articulate some of the real-world benefits that are being achieved.
A key message that I hope stakeholders take away is that the National Telematics Framework is a digital platform that has been progressively developed over many years and should be leveraged where appropriate to do so.
Fingers crossed, the presentation will also stimulate some discussion about how this can all be leveraged as technologies continue to evolve into the future.