Talking traffic lights trialled in Newcastle

Talking traffic lights that can communicate with connected vehicles are being introduced in Newcastle in a pilot project.

The technology allows the infrastructure to warn drivers of obstacles on the road, give priority at the lights to ambulances, and help drivers adjust their speed so they can pass through a series of lights on green.

It works by linking an in-vehicle communication system directly with the city’s Urban Traffic Management Control centre.

Initially, the system has been installed in non-emergency North East Ambulance Patient Transport Service vehicles which are used to take patients to and from hospital appointments, such as dialysis and cancer treatment. This trial aims to establish whether the intelligent transport infrastructure can create a smoother journey for patients and help to cut fuel bills.

The project is led by Newcastle University in collaboration with Newcastle City Council, Siemens and North East Ambulance Service. According to the university, the aim is to improve safety while reducing congestion and pollution by helping motorists to drive more efficiently.

Traffic management systems are already in place across the city to improve traffic flow but what’s unique about this trial is that we will be giving personalised information directly to the driver, explained Phil Blythe, Professor of Transport at Newcastle University.

For example, the system might advise a driver that if they travel at 24 miles an hour they will hit the next four sets of traffic lights on green. In more congested areas or particularly busy times of the day, then vehicles on key roads might be given priority in order to keep the traffic flowing.

These are exciting times in the world of transport and here in Newcastle we are leading the way – taking the first step towards a fully automated system with intelligent infrastructure and, eventually, driverless cars.

Newcastle University hopes that the project will play a key role in developing Newcastle as a smart city of the future and a model of sustainability.

58% of respondents in our recent European survey believe that intelligent transport systems (ITS) are more likely to improve citizen wellbeing than other components of smart cities. This is great news for the UK, where 62% of respondents believe ITS is a priority for the UK Government. The UK is followed closely by the Netherlands and Germany with 56% and 47% of respondents believing ITS is a priority for their governments. Continued collaboration is essential in the development, funding and roll out of such important technology.”

Simon Spooner, Partner

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