Transport for West Midlands (TfWM) is harnessing the power of 5G technology to innovate road traffic networks and cut congestion on some of the West Midlands busiest roads with the help of VivaCity Lab’s sensors.
A congestion-busting network of 5G sensors will relay live traffic information to local authorities so that swift action can be taken as queues build up – including diverting buses, implementing diversions, and issuing instant warnings to motorists.
West Midlands 5G (WM5G) and TfWM have joined forces to work on the project to demonstrate how 5G technology can make a major impact on our road network. VivaCity provides AI powered sensors which gather detailed and anonymous data 24/7 on travel patterns, transport flow and different modes of transport to support strategic decisions on urban infrastructure.
The project centres around the Key Route Network, a set of A and B roads equivalent to 7% of the available network, but which carry over half of all traffic within the region. This has resulted in congestion hotspots affecting drivers and bus passengers alike, something which the Road Sensor Networks project hopes to alleviate.
In its first phase, the project aims to capture a more granular picture of traffic flow through the deployment of various 5G enabled sensors, radar and cameras across the key route network.
To date the region has relied on manual surveys of traffic flows using pneumatic tubes or limited coverage of CCTV and Automatic Number Plate Recognition (ANPR) cameras to gauge the number of vehicles and journeys being undertaken on the region’s roads. This approach is limited in terms of the data and information it provides, making it difficult to accurately predict or model transport activity on the road network.
Mike Waters, Director of Policy, Strategy and Innovation for TfWM said: “Our partnership with VivaCity, and the accurate data that its technology will provide us with, will go a long way in reinvigorating existing traffic networks in the region. The project will also allow us to develop better traffic models or “digital twins” allowing improved understanding of changes in travel behaviour as the region comes out of lockdown. These models also allow us to prioritise road improvements and support new developments, key to “building back better”.
Chris Holmes, Transport Programme Director for WM5G said: “The Road Sensor Network project is a great example of how deliberate application of connected technologies can provide the insights necessary to solve some of our biggest transport problems.
“The anonymised, GDPR compliant information captured during the project will be sufficient to start improving the flow of traffic across the West Midlands’ Key Route Network and improve access to the region. Better connected roads will ultimately support local financial growth as it will be quicker and easier to travel for business, leisure, or academia.”
The Road Sensor Network will also deploy environmental sensors to gain greater insight into noise levels, particulates, CO and CO2 counts, as well as weather and humidity data. This kind of information will support the TfWM in meeting air quality objectives and help the region reduce its emissions footprint, which in turn will improve the health and wellbeing of local citizens and road users.
5G’s high speed and low latency (the time from action to reaction) enables the data captured to be anonymised and transferred to the RTCC in near-real time, building a more accurate simulation model of anticipated traffic and improving congestion management. It also supports the collection of a much richer set of data including pedestrian, cycle movements and supports evaluation of Future Transport Zone initiatives such as demand responsive transport and E-Scooters.
The next stage of the £5.8 million Road Sensor Network Project will see around 280 sensors provided by VivaCity and Vaisala deployed across the seven constituent authorities of the West Midlands Combined Authority area, before its conclusion in March 2022. It is hoped the findings will support other regions in developing similar networks to ease congestion hotspots and more intuitively manage traffic flow.
Our partnership with WM5G started in late 2020 to validate the application and use of 5G-enabled smart sensors to accurately identify and classify road usage in real-time – Download the case study about this partnership and project to learn more.
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