How cities can tackle vehicle congestion and emissions with intelligent traffic management.
A new generation of joined-up traffic management solutions promises to reduce congestion and improve air quality in cities worldwide. To find out more, we asked Kapsch TrafficCom’s VP Sales CENECA Gerd Gröbminger what these new solutions are, how they work, and how they help cities build more sustainable mobility strategies.
Q: What are you talking about when you refer to intelligent traffic management?
A: This term is really all about bringing together technologies and data that allow city and highways authorities to sense and respond to traffic conditions in real time. While traditional solutions may apply a congestion charge at a certain time of day, a proactive solution looks at current conditions and combines measures such as dynamic pricing, intelligent vehicle routing, and signalling optimisation to manage demand.
Q: What are the potential benefits of intelligent traffic management for transit authorities and road users?
A: By implementing these kinds of solutions today in every city of more than 200,000 inhabitants worldwide, we would immediately see a 2% reduction in global greenhouse gas emissions. What’s more, solutions like dynamic pricing can help to shape road-user behaviour where alternative transport modes exist, leading to even greater environmental benefits. Equally importantly, journey times can be accelerated to deliver major productivity gains, and to improve the experience of road users.
Q: How is vehicle data helping to fight congestion and emissions in cities?
A: Today, many city and highways authorities still use an extremely large number of sensors, such as induction loops, radar, infrared and video cameras to understand real-time traffic conditions. If you can source data from vehicles themselves, the requirements for roadside infrastructure are reduced dramatically, and this removes a major obstacle for implementing intelligent traffic management solutions. Also, with vehicle data, our real-time knowledge of traffic conditions will improve as well, supporting more effective, more timely responses.
Q: Once you have a real-time sense of traffic conditions, which solutions can help you fight congestion?
A: Signalling optimisation is a key tool for fighting congestion as part of an intelligent traffic management strategy. It’s all about adjusting the timing of traffic lights to prevent traffic build-up at junctions, particular if heavy traffic is heading one way. If it’s done properly, signalling optimisation can reduce traffic jams by up to 25%.
Another technology worth mentioning is Green Light Optimal Speed Advisory, or GLOSA, which car manufacturers are building into their vehicles. This uses data feeds from traffic lights to help motorists keep up with the ‘green wave’ – which is a row of traffic lights that are all set to green. By following GLOSA recommendations, drivers can save 15% of their driving energy and achieve significant time and fuel savings.
Q: How can traffic stakeholders collaborate and work together to fight congestion?
A: There are lots of examples, but a key one is navigation. At the moment, traffic routing systems are selfish in the sense that they work on a stand-alone basis, which often results in traffic jams on specific routes. It makes great sense for navigation system providers to work in a collaborative manner, keeping an eye on the overall traffic situation. By deploying deep learning algorithms, it’s possible to not only figure out the optimal routing scenario for traffic, but also to balance traffic according to local needs on all available routes. This can enable navigation providers to fight congestion and speed up journey times for individual drivers.
Q: What is the role of access control for fighting congestion and why are current congestion charging schemes sub-optimal?
A: To maximise your ability to fight congestion, you have to manage access to the road. In London, for example, motorists have to pay a fixed and relatively high fee to enter central areas, but those who can afford it continue to take their cars. A better way is to introduce dynamic toll rates that follow the traffic load and thus also include toll-free periods. This approach makes it easier to fine-tune traffic control based on time and place, and tariffs can also be set based on people’s ability to pay, making charging schemes fairer.
Q: With such clear benefits, why haven’t all cities implemented intelligent traffic management solutions?
A: The reality is that most city authorities still don’t know that these kinds of benefits can be achieved with today’s technology solutions. Also, there is some initial investment required, which can be a barrier to deployment in some cities. But let’s not forget that city tolls can generate revenues and, in the future, and investments could even be financed through emissions trading – basically payments made by the EU to cities who reduce their carbon dioxide emissions. Any way you look at it, intelligent traffic management is a great investment as well as an enabler for reducing congestion and emissions and improving quality of life in cities around the world.
For more information on intelligent traffic management and how it can help your city to reduce traffic congestion and emissions, visit
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