Smart Cities Can Do Away With Traffic Jams – Intelligently

You are less than 10 minutes away from your destination and you are stuck in a gridlock from past 15 minutes. Your car is moving ahead inch by inch and you have no way but just wait. That is the height of annoyance you experience in a traffic jam. This is the brutal reality every commuter faces in every city around the world – doesn’t matter whether you are from America or Europe, Asia or Africa.

The ordeal is not just annoying but costly too – on our pockets and our health. In fact, even the economy of the city has to lose millions of dollars on the nuisance created by traffic jams. As the problem is increasing it seems that some of us have learnt to cope with it. But there are some people who are finding out simple yet intelligent solutions to traffic jams. Which one day may drive this reality to become a thing of the past. So, let’s check out the new ways to drive the roads more safely and effectively.

A Low-Cost Solution From A Graduate

After graduating in Economics from the University of Cambridge (in 2017), a self-made entrepreneur, Richard Cartwright decided to do something independently. He participated in a business plan competition conducted by the Singapore Management University and won $2500 for a proposal that was based on the idea of managing traffic by tapping into the data extracted from CCTV cameras.

The entrepreneur is actively engaged in developing a low-cost solution of using data to manage traffic easily. Recently, Cartwright co-founded a startup called ‘FlowX’ that was selected for the Geovation accelerator programme. The programme was organised by Ordnance Survey (OS) that supports startups working with geolocation data. His business was granted a £10,000  and office space in London.

Cartwright began with visiting the traffic control centres in the major cities of UK. Surprisingly, he found out that traffic data was limited, seldom automated and not suitable for the data age. He also found that despite cameras installed at most major intersections, spotting of accidents could be difficult. The control room has so many screens to monitor, that missing an accident could be easy – though traffic managers respond to incidents as quickly as possible.

Cartwright believes that creating an intelligent, analytical system to extract data from CCTV cameras can potentially address the challenges faced in freeing up the roads. Computers can help in identifying and counting the vehicles on the road and learn the flow of the traffic on a particular road. Going forward with machine learning, the system could learn to spot any incident and alert the control room instantly.

Because Cartwright could not do this alone, he approached London-based traffic software company Vivacity Labs for the project. Vivacity Labs uses machine learning and AI to manage traffic levels using their own sensors and cameras.

FlowX aims at developing a low-cost solution by integrating the Vivacity software with the existing CCTV cameras. However, issues related to anonymous data, privacy and personal data are concerns for the authorities and the public.

But if the project proposed by FlowX is ready with the green signal from the authorities, smart cities will have a new way to manage traffic efficiently.

Image-processing Solution From Traffic Vision

TrafficVision is a startup in the US providing Intelligent Transportation Systems to smart cities.  The software developed by the company can turn any traffic monitoring camera into an intelligent sensor. Capturing the data and processing it from the existing camera infrastructure, TrafficVision can help traffic managers to respond to traffic incidents immediately – whether it is happening on highways, tunnels or bridges.

Kansas City has more than 300 CCTV cameras installed on highways that are monitored just by three operators. This being a difficult task to manage, the city deployed the solution from TrafficVision. Now, the city has the TrafficVision software deployed that identifies incidents in real-time such as accidents, wrong-way drivers, debris on the road and transmits video clips directly to the cloud. The deployed solution detects incident 14 minutes faster than manually monitored by operators. This helps the traffic management to respond to critical situations more effectively, re-route the traffic if necessary and make roads safer for the public.

Cloud-based Solution From City Brain

Alibaba, China’s biggest e-commerce retail company has branched into providing an AI system called City Brain to automate traffic management. The system has been created by using cloud computing and crunching enormous amount of data.

More than 18 months ago, City Brain was brought to Hangzhou to address the traffic challenges. The system predicts the traffic flows 10 minutes earlier by tapping into the hundreds of cameras installed across the city. The average car speed in the city has increased by 11%. Accidents and breakdowns are cleared more quickly and traffic flow has enhanced considerably. Thanks to the system that eases up the traffic by adjusting the traffic lights and sending text messages to drivers suggesting them to work out a different route.

The system that has now been successful in improving the traffic system for nine million residents is now being brought by Macau and Malaysia.

Other Solutions

1. Making Traffic Signals Adapt To Real-Time Situations

How Traffic Signals Can Be Made To Work Effectively? In the past, traffic signals were just meant to flash the green, yellow and red lights. But today’s technology can make them play diverse roles and work smartly. For example, the city of Columbus in Ohio is using data captured from the government fleet vehicles to optimise the traffic signal timing. All the more, traffic signals can be equipped with analytical systems that can get the better idea of traffic flow, learn the average time a vehicle has to wait at the signal and modify the timing to optimise the traffic flow throughout the day.

2. V2I Technology For Safety Alerts

Cities can use the vehicle to infrastructure (V2I) technology to manage traffic emergencies effectively. Communication systems installed at different intersections and along the highways can communicate with vehicles and send them safety-related accident and weather alerts. A significant amount can be invested in V2I technology development as cities will be then less likely to spend on accident clean-up, highway closures, gridlocks etc. Take for example the smart corridor recently opened in Atlanta. The city anticipates reducing the travel time by 25% by using adaptive traffic signal technology, connected video cameras and more.

3. Using Drones Instead Of Vehicles

Some tasks managed by the city municipal vehicles can be done by drones. For example, drones can replace vehicles that go for checking water meters, utility lines etc. in the city. As drone technology is gaining momentum, more and more utilities and public energy authorities are using drones for fieldwork. In fact, Los Angeles is even planning to use drone technology in firefighting. Even companies like Amazon are planning to use drones for short-distance deliveries in the cities. These changes can significantly improve traffic management in smart cities.

Well, using IoT, AI, machine learning, drones and analytics in managing traffic problems can really bring a big difference. But as cities begin to use them and more and more data is captured, stored, analysed and transmitted, it depends on smart cities how they manage these intelligent tools more intelligently.


Smart Transport System For Developing Nations

Smart Transport System

While the urban population will remain relatively constant in the most developed nations of the world, in developing countries the number is going to double from 2010 to 2050. This sole fact is enough for the developing nations to speed up at building more sustainable cities for the coming generations.

Considering the other side, depending on the kind of resources available, funds from private and public sector along with successful collaborations, developing regions have seen a rapid growth in many dimensions in the recent years. Among all, the transport system has witnessed a crucial development phase in some of the African and Asian cities. There is a high potential in these regions to set up better transport systems. A lot of holistic strategies adopted by some of the European and American cities can be useful for the developing nations. Alongside, what should be the focus and where it needs to be diverted is discussed below.

What Are The Existing Challenges?

Major challenges of transport in developing nations Many developing cities around the world are not able to keep up with the pace in balancing the supply and demand of the urban transport system. Whether it is the matter of roadways, railways, metro systems or the BRT, the approach is not fast enough and sustainable.

It is a fact that setting up a reliable, efficient, and at the same time the affordable urban transport system is challenging and expensive. But this is also a fact that there is a lot of room to manage these challenges with the opportunities in technology.

The core challenges that are retarding the smart transport development in the developing cities are:

The growing cities lag behind due to insufficient capacity to mobilise the huge amount of funds required in initiating the transport infrastructure projects
The land acquisition and resettlement issues are one of the biggest challenges that hinder the planning and implementation of transport projects and therefore cause the delay in development
The increase in population comes with new challenges that need to be solved first
Illegal occupancy of vehicles on sidewalks and bicycle lanes

Smart Transport Is The Solution

The rapidly growing ICT-enabled devices and services is a major plus point for the developing cities that can help them enhance and optimise the efficacy of the existing and the arriving transport systems. Improving the already-in-use transport systems with the smart approach is possible at a lower cost as compared to constructing completely new infrastructure which is very expensive.

Improvement Of The Existing Public Transport – People prefer commuting through personal vehicles because that is faster and more convenient mode of transportation. But if the services and the system is improved, people would start opting for public transport.


For example, buses should be integrated with intelligent traffic control systems where the signal lights are adjusted automatically optimising the movement of the buses within the city based on real time traffic information. Computer-aided Bus Dispatch, Bus Priority Signals and Real Time Passenger Information can rapidly enhance the traffic flow and take the quality and serviceability of the buses to a higher level.

Application Of Open Data – The open-source platform is the most inexpensive way that can help accumulate data related to public transport accessibility, monitor and record road safety, public transport routing data, substitute travel route information and execute travel surveys. The applications of open data can serve governments and the managers of the developing cities in carrying out efficient planning and implementations at minimal cost. The open data has full potential to help create affordable transport system and hence overcome the major challenges of transport in developing nations. The open-source approach is already aiding Manila. Mexico, New York and Boston in building up good transport strategies.


Travel Shift From Peak To Non-Peak Hours – In 2008, the Indian IT company Infosys initiated an ICT-supported incentive project to encourage the employees of the company to travel to its suburban campus at different times in a day – this considerably helps reduce the traffic congestion in the morning peak hours. Similarly, New York and Singapore is deploying such tools to shift the travel demand from peak to non-peak hours. Such pilot programs can divert the cities to huge financial savings by not investing in constructing additional roads and metros.

Participation Of Citizens And Bottom-up Crowdsourcing

‘Ushahidi’ is a crowdsourcing platform that was used in Washington DC and New York to establish the snow clean up attempt after storms. The same kind of platform can be put to use in the developing cities to draw the attention of communities and citizen in participating in activities that address the supply as well as demand related challenges in the transport system. For example, it can be used in monitoring road construction and maintenance, in giving account on road accidents, analysing safety and security concerns, gathering info on vehicle sharing, curtailing unreasonable occupancy on pedestrians pathway and bicycle lanes and many more such issues can be solved upfront.
From The Vice President For Mobility At Siemens Africa

According to Kevin Pillay, the Vice President For Mobility At Siemens Africa, the African continent has already started to work towards creating interconnected, modern and efficient transport systems that support the economy. The existing transport infrastructure coupled with electrification, automation and digitisation will create smart mobility that features safety, efficiency, and reliability.

Further, Pillay informs that “the adoption of intelligent traffic systems (ITS) will keep Africa’s busiest cities as fast-moving investment destinations”. It involves the implementation of smart sensor networks integrated with intelligent algorithms to automatically adjust in trying to enhance traffic flow.

Intelligent Mobility

The future of African transport The Benin City will be upgraded with an advanced ITS system that provides real time traffic information – This was recently revealed by Nigeria’s Edo State government. The initiative will also intend to inform commuters across the city regarding travel times, gridlocks and weather updates on radio or online.

Apart from these modern transport-related solutions, automatic number plate recognition (ANPR) cameras and Average Speed Over Distance (ASOD) technology will be useful in improving the safety of pedestrians, cyclists, drivers, and commuters.

Pillay also informs that better investments in upgrading passenger rail networks in Africa can prove to be effective in cutting down congestion on heavily burdened and under-maintained roads. For example, the Gauteng Nerve Centre (GNC) in South Africa is a 3400-metre square control centre that works for centralised rail traffic management in Gauteng (South Africa’s economic hub). The centre monitors Gauteng’s rail traffic (600 trains accommodate 500,000 commuters daily) without a stop and meanwhile also manages 35 train control operators in one place.

Furthermore, Pillay says, “The GNC boasts world-class automation capabilities and can immediately respond to any operating failures, accidents, and other incidents, thereby enabling greater efficiencies in rail operations and train safety, while offering a more reliable service through higher infrastructure utilisation”.

Pillay concludes by saying, “If Africa truly wants to unleash its full potential, then sufficient funds must be responsibly invested in upgrading existing transport and logistics infrastructures like road, rail, and ports, in addition to new concepts that include electric bus rapid transport and ferries, to name a few.”

The above stated intelligent transport solutions can also work for other developing nations. Apart from the solutions discussed here, there are much more which can be added to the list. One thing that makes everything clear is connected systems and ICT-enabled approach can help us catalyse the creation of sustainable transport system in developing smart cities.

Refrence : www.smartcity