“Smart junctions” rolled out in Manchester to reduce congestion

By Ellen Daniel

Transport for Greater Manchester has announced it is partnering with artificial intelligence (AI) company Vivacity Labs on the rollout of smart traffic junctions in the city.

Using AI, these junctions are designed to better cope with an increase in non-car traffic – such as bikes and pedestrians – prompted by the Covid-19 pandemic.

Sensors will be used to detect the type of road user at the junction and allow different modes of transport to be given priority if needed in order to optimise Greater Manchester’s transport network, on which more than 5.6 million journeys are made every day.

The new system is also designed to reduce congestion and queuing, by using an algorithm that can adapt to changing traffic conditions, prioritising pedestrians or cyclists when and where this is needed.

“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.”

Vivacity Labs’ first AI signal control system went live earlier this year, with the technology deployed at three junctions in the Blackfriars area of Salford in September.

This is part of a programme, funded by innovation agency Innovate UK and mobility software company Immense Simulations, to use AI to optimise traffic networks.

Digital Infrastructure Minister Matt Warman said: “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, which has secured additional investment via the Department for Digital, Culture, Media, and Sport’s 5G Create fund’, will be expanded to 20 junctions in Manchester by the end of 2021. 

Vivacity Lab’s smart junction solution won the Innovative Use of Technology award at the 2020 Intelligent Transport Systems Awards last week.

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