Smart cities require smarter traffic management systems
The INRIX’s 2017 Traffic Scorecard reports that traffic congestion has costed the United States, UK and Germany a combined total of $461 billion in 2017. And as more people move to large cities, the issue of traffic congestion will only increase if the current traffic management systems are not optimized.
Currently, we are watching the auto industry make huge advancements in development from Tesla’s Autopilot to Cadillac’s Escalade and with L2 vehicles becoming more commonplace it does make the current, somewhat archaic traffic system seem quite outdated. The traffic system used today by most cities and counties was developed nearly 100 years ago so it makes sense that it has not tackled the traffic congestion problem that exists now, especially when vehicles have evolved in leaps and bounds in the last century.
Today city managers that order from Amazon Prime, use iPhones, and are using technology in every aspect of their personal lives are eager to update and bring a more advanced, artificial intelligence-based traffic management system to intersections. The advantages are enormous with aims to increase traffic flow, decrease congestion, save money, and reduce CO emissions.
Autonomous traffic management systems are automating the entire manual traffic management processes. The system enables cities, for the first time, to implement their traffic policies in a seamless way and operate autonomously in order to maximize traffic flow, and implement those policies at the street level. Autonomous traffic management systems are not constrained by the traditional traffic management methodology such as timing plans, offsets etc. and can respond to constantly changing environments on the roads in real-time in order to increase traffic flow.
Today, there is no need to wait at a red light if there is no traffic coming from the other directions – the lights should be able to respond to the actual needs of what is happening on the road rather than work on timing plans, which is how the traffic lights work now. Digital grids allow the traffic lights to communicate with each other creating a seamless flow of traffic that is responsive to the vehicles. Additionally, it allows city managers, for the first time, to easily define their traffic policies. For example, pedestrians can be prioritized over vehicles near school zones during peak hours so that children can cross the street safely. AI-based features can create a safe environment with prioritized planning.
Additionally, digitalized traffic grids detect accidents as soon as they happen and can automatically notify first responders so that emergency personnel can be at the scene as soon as possible. The enhanced features provide an additional layer of safety and security to the city infrastructure, enabling efficient communication to key officials.
Via a Virtual Management Center (VMC) – a cloud based dashboard, the city can manage the digital traffic grids, so that city officials can define policies such as transit signal priority, emergency vehicle preemption, and pedestrian/bike prioritization. Data on what is happening on the roads is also fundamental so that city officials have insights on maintenance issues, a log of signal operations, and real-time status information so that officials can have a full view of city traffic patterns, and behaviors at all times.
The appeal for automated traffic management systems is certainly great, providing high costs savings to cities as well as efficient traffic flow; however, the safety measures that are increased with an AI-based system is an often less talked about advantage and one that can make a huge difference for cities across the globe. In fact, in just a couple of years, cities worldwide will all have a digitalized traffic system. It’s a system that empowers the city, drivers and officials and a system that will become our reality on the road everyday.
Tal Kreisler is the CEO of NoTraffic.