Artificial Intelligence

AI gives green light to smart traffic lights

13th May 2020
Alex Lynn

Seven towns across Kent and East Sussex have benefited so far from new smart traffic lights which reduce waiting times for drivers. The new system was successfully trialled by electricity firm UK Power Networks in Maidstone last summer and is now being used regularly across the South East.

As the Covid-19 pandemic continues, the firm that helps to keep the lights on across the South East and East of England, plus London, has worked with local councils to use the new smart traffic lights across Marden, Orpington, Crowborough, Maidstone and Dover.

Roadworks and traffic lights are sometimes necessary for safety reasons when utility firms have to install or repair cabling and other equipment under the roads. The clever controls of the ‘autoGreen’ radar system automatically detect congestion and make continuous adjustments to the phasing of the traffic lights to maximise traffic flow, all without the need for an operator’s intervention. Each site is di­fferent but this form of artificial intelligence adapts to the situations it monitors, creating safer, more e­fficient and less stressful journeys and local environments.

The trial in Maidstone revealed that in heavy traffic autoGreen reduced journey times between eight and 12%, rising to 27% to 41% in congested conditions, with some 15-minute periods cutting journey times by half. Other benefits to motorists and councils include less impact on surrounding infrastructure and reducing the environmental impact of queuing traffic. It also improves safety for workers on site, by reducing their exposure to pollution, safety risks and occasional abuse.

Paul Dooley, Streetworks Performance Manager at UK Power Networks, said: “Our trial in Kent using this technology was well received. We were able to demonstrate the tangible benefits and help to alleviate environmental concerns. There was a greater increase in cars passing per hour. This in turn led to shorter journey times along with an overall improvement in air quality.

“The system accurately tracks vehicle movements and uses this information to optimise the operation of the lights, varying the decision-making algorithms and timings. Our long-term aim is for this type of smart traffic lights to be deployed whenever we need to do roadworks that affect traffic, across Kent and the other areas that we serve, in future.”

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