A common headache across the majority of British roads are traffic jams — an issue that all drivers will have been a victim of at some point. But is there a solution to the problem? Fortunately, the motoring world appears to share this concern, which is evident by the technology that is being designed and launched to try and combat moments of gridlock on the nation’s roads.
Used van specialist Van Monster has analysed some of the most eye-catching developments that are either with us now, or are forthcoming — developments which could be the solution we need to prevent dreaded traffic jams on our roads.
A line of communication
Audi is utilising its expert knowledge and resources to develop a technology that acts as a line of communication between vehicles and nearby traffic lights. Referred to as ‘vehicle-to-infrastructure’ technology — or V-to-I— 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.
V-to-I will be more than just a one-way conversation. In fact, the technology will make use of the cloud to send safety information and other operational data wirelessly from vehicles to traffic lights.
Audi is hopeful that V-to-I technology could play a key role in minimising congestion and reducing the number of crashes on our roads.
Pom Malhotra, 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 even used to help improve traffic flow in municipalities. These improvements could lead to better overall efficiency and shorter commuting times.”
As a result of a six-month trial carried out by Transport for London (TfL), some buses around London will be fitted with digital information boards on the rear of the vehicle to display accurate and live traffic updates from TfL’s 24-hour traffic control centre.
The route 344 from Clapham Junction to Liverpool Street in London will be the first set of buses to trial this new concept. While the trial will be introduced exclusively on the 344 route, if it’s a success, there are already plans in place to expand it onto the 415 route that travels from Tulse Hill to Liverpool Street — and possibly the whole of London.
Garrett Emmerson, 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.”
Say hello to smart cities
The teams at NXP and Siemens have joined forces to collaborate on a new technology project that has the potential to usher in 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.
NXP and Siemens are confident that their devices could be ready to launch as early as 2020, though cities will first need to implement the technology throughout their streets for the idea to be fully effective.
How do smart motorways work?
With smart motorways already in action across the UK’s busiest motorways, many drivers are already getting used to the implementation of smart motorways. Managed remotely from a regional traffic control centre and the responsibility of Highways England, the idea is to actively manage the flow of traffic. The idea sees traffic being carefully monitored so that vehicles have the best opportunity to flow freely along a route.
Travel along a smart motorway and you should be observant of these following features:
- A lane that has a red ‘X’ in the electronic signs that hangs over it shouldn’t be driven along.
- The hard shoulder — indicated by a solid white line — shouldn’t be driven along unless otherwise directed to do so.
- 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.
- 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.