Case study

Virtual reality
testing of new

We have partnered with transport consultancy ITP to explore how virtual reality (VR) tools can be used to help people visualise the future of transport development schemes through a more immersive experience.

Being sustainable for the future 

The role of transport in our towns and cities is changing . There is a greater focus on creating sustainable places where people can walk, cycle and use public transport for their everyday journeys. This, in turn, creates cleaner, healthier and more economically resilient cities through reduced congestion and better quality of life.

Over the last 50 years, ‘predict and provide’ methods have been predominantly used to forecast highway capacity requirements associated with new developments. This has resulted in more roads being created, often at the detriment to pedestrians, cyclists and public transport users. This, in turn, has fuelled the demand for more travel by car, and worsened congestion.

There is now a consensus that this has to change – with a new focus on planning places for people and not cars. This new approach is becoming known as ‘vision and validate’. It places greater emphasis on towns and cities defining what they want their future to look like and then developing a long-term transport plan to deliver that vision.

ITP (Integrated Transport Planning) is an award-winning sustainable transport consultancy. They have been at the forefront of industry thinking with regard to this new way of doing things. They have identified that a barrier to widescale adoption of this new ‘vision and validate’ approach to transport planning is the lack of any tools that help to assess and visualise what that future might look like on any particular street. This is essential if we are to get people to ‘buy-in’ to a new vision for their area – a vision that in some cases may radically change the streetscape, with much more space allocated for people.

European Regional Development Fund Logo with blue background and circle of gold stars.

Working with ITP

We have partnered with ITP via the Catalysing Growth Through Research For Transport Equipment Manufacturing project. The research was part-funded by the European Regional Development Fund. The project set out to explore how VR tools could be used to help transform 2D technical drawings into meaningful visions of the future that local people could fully understand through a more immersive experience.

We have particular expertise in engineering simulations and VR technologies. We were able to provide funded technical support and work with ITP to take a conventional CAD (computer-aided design) drawing of a proposed highway-improvement scheme and bring it to life in a virtual world. This VR environment enabled stakeholders to immerse themselves in the proposed scheme. They were able to gain a full appreciation of the proposals and make a more informed decision about whether to support them.

The VR demonstrator was then tested with a collection of ITP clients and collaborators to seek their view on whether it affected their perceptions of the proposed scheme. Qualitative feedback confirmed the power of VR in helping to influence people’s decision making. The immersive experience provided a more meaningful understanding of the proposals compared with conventional technical drawings.

The pilot

The pilot was a great success, with the key outcomes being:

The joint research team are now seeking future opportunities to collaborate on VR applications. This includes developing new techniques to improve the way we model the behavioural response to walking, cycling and other public transport improvement schemes.

Contact our joint research team to find out more:

ITP: Jon Parker - Managing Director

T: +44 (0)115 988 6904


University of Derby:  Ana-Maria Stevenson - Business Engagement Manager

T: +44 (0)1332 597967