Beating traffic jams with intelligent video technology

CCTV Handbook 2019 CCTV, Surveillance & Remote Monitoring, Transport (Industry)

Across the world, many urban road networks are already saturated. This causes long delays for drivers, increasing frustration and reducing productivity. It also creates major public health risks due to poor air quality. Together, the effects of excessive traffic negatively impact city dwellers’ quality of life and the sustainability of cities.

According to one study from INRIX, a provider of transport insights, Los Angeles commuters spent over 100 hours a year in traffic jams in 2017 – more than any other city in the world. Additionally, London traffic jams cost drivers the equivalent of £2 430 (US$ 3 135) each, equal to more than £9.5 billion (US$ 12.3 billion) across the city as a whole [See http://inrix.com/scorecard/ for the latest figures, including those in South Africa – Ed.].

In many cities, building new road capacity is not an option – either because of available space, disruption to economic activities, or budgetary constraints. In these circumstances, city authorities are beginning to look to smart technologies to make people’s journeys faster and safer.

In the portfolio of available traffic easing technologies, latest-generation video technology is the star. In particular, innovations in artificial intelligence (AI) and deep learning have transformed standard video monitoring with features that alert operators about traffic issues in real time.

Three solutions with intelligent video technology for free-flowing cities

Next generation video solutions are already helping city authorities to reduce congestion and deliver major time savings for drivers.

Traffic guidance

This kind of solution uses smart cameras installed at intersections to monitor and report on real-time traffic flow. It works by constantly observing the flow of traffic lanes, and by counting vehicles within defined areas of the road. Data is then sent to traffic management control centres where operators can see the build-up of traffic across the city.

Critically, this citywide view of traffic allows operators to take action in real time to reduce the root causes of congestion, such as misuse of bus lanes or illegal parking. In the event of a traffic incident, traffic guidance solutions are also great news for drivers.

Traffic signal control

Traffic signal control solutions allow traffic lights to be coordinated to keep traffic flowing as freely as possible. They consume traffic data from traffic guidance systems to understand where traffic is building up at an intersection. To do this, intelligent traffic cameras count vehicles that cross an intersection as well as detect the length of vehicle queues at an intersection. They simultaneously share the real-time data with the traffic signal system. Based on this data, traffic lights can be coordinated automatically to even out the traffic flow.

Traffic enforcement

In many cases, traffic congestion is caused by illegal or irresponsible road use, such as illegal parking and use of bus lanes. With traffic enforcement video solutions such as wrong-way driving detection, illegal U-turns and illegal parking detection, these kinds of incidents can be identified in real time, allowing operators in traffic control centres to alert the authorities immediately.

A better future for congested cities

With urban traffic management now topping the agenda for most city authorities, intelligent video technology is a beacon of hope. By monitoring traffic in real time, these kinds of solutions allow city authorities to take immediate action to ease bottlenecks – reducing drivers’ frustration, reducing lost productivity and improving urban air quality. Additionally, real-time incident detection helps to improve overall driving standards, which ultimately reduces the number of accidents and saves lives.


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