There’s a lot more going on behind traffic lights than the sequence of red, amber and green that we’re all familiar with.
For example, you’ll probably have observed that, at a junction, busier roads get a longer share of green lights than the less populated roads that they’re intersecting with.
Image credit: SWARCO
Other implementations carefully phase the timing of the lights so that drivers get a long sequence of green signals if they drive at a steady pace below the speed limit for the road – a system known as a ‘green band’.
Another modern innovation is putting sensors close to each set of lights that can measure the amount of traffic continuously and adapt the light timings to best cope with the prevailing conditions.
Sadly, as any city dweller knows, there’s still a way to go. But that’s why HERE is working with the SWARCO Group – one of the world’s leaders in traffic management, including, yes, the manufacture of traffic lights – to develop new systems and optimise existing ideas.
“We’re bringing together the skill sets of two industry leaders – SWARCO in traffic management, and HERE in real-time map content – to create something that’s an evolution of the transport environment,” says Michael Schuch, SWARCO’s VP for Systems and Technology.
The idea is to combine probe data from HERE, and SWARCO’s sensor data and traffic management information to help HERE create new navigation services that will give the drivers of connected cars intelligent speed guidance – allowing drivers to be more informed about the road network and in the end enabling a safer and more comfortable driving experience.
At the same time, SWARCO benefits, too: the combination will help it provide road authorities with solutions that dramatically improve congestion management, vehicle efficiency and reduce carbon emissions.
The end-game is autonomous cars. The deployment of connected vehicles and autonomous driving demands a convergence of traffic management and control systems and the traffic information services,” says Michael. The cars will be addressed individually and will know the speed at which they ought to be driving so that traffic is in a steady flow across the system, in real time. Adding on the future cruise control that makes sure that your car is actually moving at those speeds doesn’t seem like a big jump.
“It’s a virtuous circle,” says Michael. “When HERE, the cars on the road and SWARCO all share their data, then we can make things better for everyone.”
At the 2014 World Congress on Intelligent Transport Systems in Detroit, SWARCO is demonstrating a real-time model of traffic in a city that’s renowned for heavy traffic – Rome – and showing how its systems can effectively cut down congestion. “HERE has enabled us to leverage the untapped potential of predictive traffic data interpretation. Data fusion of road sensors and probe vehicles allows our systems to accurately predict traffic congestion and react effectively to prevent it. Our goal is to showcase an example of how intelligent traffic management and real-time probe vehicle information as well as the consideration of our local knowledge about the traffic behaviour – in this case the city of Rome – are improving traffic safety, efficiency and comfort in driving,” Michael comments.