From February-May 2016, the City of Edinburgh Council (CEC) and Edinburgh Living Lab (ELL) collaborated on a project funded by The Data Lab to study the feasibility of converting part of the Edinburgh black cab fleet to plug-in hybrid electric vehicles (PHEVs). Results from the project contributed to an application to the Office of Low Emission Vehicles for funding to support the introduction of PHEV taxis in Edinburgh, comprising infrastructure development and subsidies for new vehicle purchases.
The project applied novel data analytics emerging from research in the School of Informatics at the University of Edinburgh to a real-life challenge in the city, situating the data analysis in the larger social and political context. It reached out to taxi companies, taxi drivers and a larger network of stakeholders through a driver survey, interviews, focus groups, scenario building and a workshop. In so doing, it integrated telematics data with the lived experiences of the individuals and companies that created and collected the data.
By curating and analysing taxi data, the project supported some of the the Council’s key policy objectives. In particular, it demonstrated how data analysis can yield insights into the complex ecosystem of sustainable mobility in Edinburgh and facilitate the transition to a low-carbon, connected city. The project also gave us an opportunity to test a research methodology that combines data science, participatory design, social science and systems thinking.
This project demonstrates the potential for The Data Lab to connect universities and the public sector in a way that not only generates short-term value from data in the context of a specific project but also catalyses longer-term change in institutional relationships to, and through, the use of data.