Greater Manchester to roll out AI-controlled road junctions to optimise traffic networks

Vivacity Labs and Transport for Greater Manchester (TfGM) have announced the roll-out of AI-controlled ‘smart’ traffic junctions to accommodate the increase of active travel modes, such as cycling and walking, in the city during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Using sensors with inbuilt artificial intelligence, Vivacity enables TfGM to anonymously identify different types of road users at selected junctions and control traffic signals to allow different modes of transportation to be prioritised as and when required. With more cyclists on the road as people avoid public transport, these ‘smart junctions’ will be able to give priority to people on foot or bike where and when appropriate.

Vivacity Labs’ AI signal control system first went live early this year, before scaling to simultaneously control three neighbouring junctions in the Blackfriars area of Salford in September 2020. This initiative also has the potential to reduce emissions and improve air quality in the Greater Manchester area. Congestion and queuing can be reduced by traffic signals that respond better and more quickly to changes in traffic conditions than existing systems.

This comes as part of a three-year Innovate UK co-funded programme, alongside Immense Simulations, to use AI to optimise traffic networks. Vivacity Labs has developed an algorithm that is able to adapt to changing traffic conditions and implement high-level strategies at both local and city-wide scales.

“Since the pandemic, commuter trends and traffic hotspots have changed completely, and cities need AI to help protect people no matter what mode of transport they take,” said Mark Nicholson, CEO of Vivacity Labs. “Our vision is to help cities implement critical policies addressing safety, air quality, sustainable travel, and congestion, at a hyper-local level.”

Digital infrastructure minister Matt Warman added: “Smart traffic technology is just one of the many ground-breaking areas the Government is funding to pioneer new ways for artificial intelligence and 5G to transform our lives for the better. We’re backing this initiative in (Greater) Manchester to improve the city’s transport, reduce journey times and cut pollution. I look forward to seeing its positive impact and sharing the lessons across the UK.”

The project has secured additional investment to expand throughout the trial region via the Department for Digital, Culture, Media, and Sport’s ‘5G Create fund’ which was announced in July 2020. The project will scale up to an area of 20 junctions in Manchester by the end of 2021.

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