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Greater Manchester deploys AI-controlled road junctions

The technology anonymously identifies different types of road users at selected junctions and controls traffic signals to allow different modes of transportation to be prioritised as and when required.

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A 3D simulation of a junction in Salford
A 3D simulation of a junction in Salford

Transport for Greater Manchester (TfGM) has announced the roll-out of AI-controlled smart traffic junctions to accommodate an increase in active travel modes, such as cycling and walking, in the city during the Covid-19 pandemic.

 

Sensor specialist Vivacity Labs’ artificial intelligence (AI) technology will be deployed at smart junctions to give priority to other road users, accommodating more people travelling on foot or by bike.

 

Smart junctions

 

Using Vivacity’s proprietary sensors with in-built AI, TfGM can anonymously identify different types of road users at selected junctions and control traffic signals to allow different modes of transportation to be prioritised as and when required.

 

With more cyclists on the road as people avoid public transport, these smart junctions will be able to give priority to people on foot or bike where and when appropriate.

“Hopefully, this development will continue into something that will positively disrupt the industry and revolutionise active travel in urban areas”

The first-of-its-kind AI signal control system went live early this year, before scaling to simultaneously control three, neighbouring junctions in the Blackfriars area of Salford in September 2020. TfGM plans to scale the project to 20 junctions across Manchester by the end of 2021.

 

“Hopefully, this development will continue into something that will positively disrupt the industry and revolutionise active travel in urban areas,” said Richard Dolphin, highways network performance manager at Transport for Greater Manchester.

 

The initiative also has the potential to reduce emissions and improve air quality in the Greater Manchester area. Congestion and queuing can be reduced by traffic signals that respond better and more quickly to changes in traffic conditions than existing systems.

 

“Since the pandemic, commuter trends and traffic hotspots have changed completely, and cities need AI to help protect people no matter what mode of transport they take,” added Mark Nicholson, CEO of Vivacity Labs.

 

“Our vision is to help cities implement critical policies addressing safety, air quality, sustainable travel, and congestion, at a hyper-local level.”

 

The three-year programme has been co-funded by Innovate UK alongside Immense Simulations to use AI to optimise traffic networks. Additional investment to expand throughout the trial region was secured via the Department for Digital, Culture, Media, and Sport’s “5G Create” fund which was announced in July 2020.

 

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