Smart traffic lights could bring an end to rush hour traffic jams

Traffic lights on the roundabout at the junction of Kingsditch Road and Tewkesbury Road part of the inner ring road in Cheltenham, Gloucestershire.

Smart traffic lights fitted with artificial intelligence could bring an end to rush hour queues across the UK.

The cutting edge technology will detect where there is heavy road use and alter traffic light patterns to ease congestion.

Milton Keynes has become the first city to reveal plans to install the AI-powered traffic lights and the city is investing £3 million in the smart technology that should start working by September 2018.

Vivacity Labs, which has developed the technology, hope the project in Milton Keynes will be the first step in creating an intelligent traffic management system that ultimately will 'talk' to driverless cars.

Currently, traffic lights across the UK run in sequences and do not react to vehicles passing through them.

Chief technology officer at Vivacity Labs, Yang Lu, told The Telegraph: "There is very limited intelligence to the current management of urban roads. Traffic lights are sequenced but rarely reactive to the levels of traffic around them. Traffic monitoring is still done manually."

As part of the Milton Keynes project, which is benefitting from £1.7m from the Department for Business' start-up arm, Innovate UK, to roll out a city-wide sensor network, Vivacity Labs will install 2,500 AI-powered cameras into the lights to monitor traffic around the city.

The AI technology will cover a 50 square mile area and monitor major roads, junctions and car parking spaces.

In order to keep the roads flowing smoothly, the smart technology will help traffic lights prioritise ambulances, buses and cyclists.

Yu said: "The AI camera accurately identifies and reports road usage, removing the need for cumbersome manual interpretation and significantly reducing the potential for human error."

He added: "It can improve traffic today as it can be linked with existing management systems to keep vulnerable road users, such as cyclists, safe by giving priority at lights, or alter signs to direct traffic away from congestion."
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