New solutions to minimise traffic jams

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If you were asked to describe your biggest headache when driving, many would say traffic jams. There aren’t many drivers who aren’t familiar with the frustration of being stuck in a traffic jam. Fortunately, the motoring world appears to share this concern, as evident by the technology that is being designed and launched, to try and combat moments of gridlock on the nation’s roads.

We have teamed up with used van specialist Van Monster to analyse some of the most eye-catching developments that are either with us now, or are forthcoming, that could be the solution to minimising our time spent in traffic jams.

Traffic communication

Well-known vehicle manufacturer Audi has embarked on a project that could allow vehicles to communicate with traffic lights effectively. Deemed ‘vehicle-to-infrastructure’ technology — or V-to-I for short — the revolutionary concept will see drivers being informed when a set of traffic lights are about to turn green. It will also act as a means of warning motorists if they won’t have enough time to make it through the lights before they turn red.

The V-to-I technology will also make use of the cloud to send safety information and other operational data wirelessly from vehicles to traffic lights.As a result of this, Audi are hopeful that the technology will act as a solution to traffic jams and prevent road traffic accidents in the future.

Pom Malhotra, the General Manager of the Connected Vehicles division at Audi, commented: “This feature represents Audi’s first step in vehicle-to-infrastructure integration.

“In the future we could envision this technology integrated into vehicle navigation, start/stop functionality and can even be used to help improve traffic flow in municipalities. These improvements could lead to better overall efficiency and shorter commuting times.”

What role will buses play?

In a new trial, buses in London will feature a digital information board on the back windows of the vehicle to display up-to-date traffic updates to vehicles around them. Once activated, the boards will make use of GPS technology in order to display accurate and live traffic information, taken straight from TfL’s 24-hour traffic control centre.

Garrett Emmerson, the Chief Operation Officer for Surface Transport at TfL, acknowledged: “This innovative use of one of the capital’s most iconic features – the London bus – will help all road users.”

The trial will be exclusivetp the 344 route from Clapham Junction to Liverpool Street in London – however, if a success, there are already plans to extend the trial to include the 415 route that travels from Tulse Hill to Liverpool Street and possibly the whole of London.

Stay connected in smart cities

NXP and Siemens have formed a collaboration to create a brand new technology that could develop an exciting new era of connected vehicles. By making use of in-vehicle chips designed by NXP which are incorporated with smart infrastructure that is being overseen by Siemens, the devices will allow vehicles to talk to each other within a city.

As a result, all of the following could soon be possible:

  • The ability for traffic lights to turn green when roads are particularly busy.
  • The chance for drivers to be instantly warned about any traffic jams on the road that they are travelling along.
  • The opportunity for real-time information about general travel conditions to be communicated straight to vehicles and their drivers.
  • The capability for drivers to be informed about any pedestrian crossings, stretches of road with lower speed limits or emergency vehicles that are nearby, via a hi-tech dashboard.

Both NXP and Siemens are feeling optimistic that they could launch their devices as soon as 2020, under the condition that cities across the nation will first need to implement the technology throughout their streets for the idea to be fully effective.

Managing traffic flow with smart motorways

A relatively new technology that has already been implemented on many of our UK motorways are smart motorways – many drivers are already getting used to the idea of having traffic remotely controlled. Controlled from a regional traffic control centre and the responsibility of Highways England, the idea sees traffic being carefully monitored so that vehicles have the best opportunity to flow freely along a route.

There are several features to be aware of when driving on smart motorways:

  1. A lane that has a red ‘X’ in the electronic signs that hangs over it shouldn’t be driven along.
  2. The hard shoulder — indicated by a solid white line — shouldn’t be driven along unless otherwise directed to do so.
  3. The smart motorway’s current speed limit will be indicated by gantries and should be kept to. The speed limit will change depending on the amount of traffic.
  4. Refuge areas should be used for emergencies at times when drivers can travel along the hard shoulder.

Smart motorways are currently in operation throughout the UK, including along stretches of the M4, M5, M25 and M42. Plans are in place to introduce many more across the country.