A new ‘smart’ traffic light system is helping to reduce waiting times for drivers across the South East.
Seven towns across Kent and East Sussex have benefited so far from new technology, which was successfully trialled by electricity firm UK Power Networks in Maidstone, last summer.
As the Covid-19 pandemic continues, the firm has worked with local councils to use the new smart traffic lights across Marden, Orpington, Crowborough, Twickenham, Maidstone and Dover.
The temporary traffic lights, which are sometimes necessary, to cater for roadworks use something called the ‘autoGreen’ radar system. It automatically detects congestion and makes continuous adjustments to the phasing of the traffic lights to maximise traffic flow, all without the need for an operator’s intervention.
Each site is different, it says, but this form of artificial intelligence adapts to the situations it monitors, creating safer, more efficient and less stressful journeys and local environments.
The trial in Maidstone revealed that in heavy traffic autoGreen reduced journey times between 8% and 12%, rising to 27% to 41% in congested conditions, with some 15-minute periods cutting journey times by half.
Other benefits to motorists and councils included less impact on surrounding infrastructure and reducing the environmental impact of queuing traffic. It also improved safety for workers on site, by reducing their exposure to pollution, safety risks and occasional abuse, it said.
Paul Dooley, streetworks performance manager at UK Power Networks, explained: “Our trial in Kent using this technology was well received.
“We were able to demonstrate the tangible benefits and help to alleviate environmental concerns. There was a greater increase in cars passing per hour. This in turn led to shorter journey times along with an overall improvement in air quality.”
Dooley says that the system accurately tracks vehicle movements and uses this information to optimise the operation of the lights, varying the decision-making algorithms and timings.
He concluded: “Our long-term aim is for this type of smart traffic lights to be deployed whenever we need to do roadworks that affect traffic, across Kent and the other areas that we serve, in future."