As a part of the 5G Testbed and Trials Programme, West Midlands 5G has deployed a number of solutions to monitor and optimise traffic throughout the region, home to some of the UK’s busiest and most congested roads. Firstly, vehicle counting sensors with 5G connectivity were installed on two roads in Solihull with a high variety and density of traffic, for live traffic monitoring. Thanks to 5G and its much faster upload and download speeds, one network can sustain higher-quality processing or process a greater number of feeds—creating more comprehensive datasets than those currently possible with 4G. The data gathered enables the development of state-of-the-art prediction models that can be used to more accurately forecast traffic flow and help to manage congestion.
Chris Holmes, Transport Programme Director at WM5G, said, “this has shown the value 5G sensors offer to road management. At the moment sources of traffic data are often limited in value and focussed on specific tasks such as speed control or general congestion information. The type of sensors shown in this trial sets a new benchmark. Intelligent sensors like these enable multiple uses including live incident management through to traffic control and even capturing detailed information about lane usage which will inform road designs of the future."
Taking this a step further, the team have explored how 5G can help Transport for West Midlands understand the available capacity of their road network in near real-time. Unlike public transport operators, who have access to data on seat availability on trains and buses, there is no such tool for operators across the road network. This makes it impossible to accurately estimate the impact on the capacity of planned roadworks and public events that both disrupt traffic, creating greater demands on the network. The 5G Enabled Dynamic Network Capacity Manager aims to use 5G traffic sensing data for dynamic traffic management. This will enable traffic managers to optimise the road network to mitigate traffic-impacting disruption for instance taking actions like diverting buses or sending instant warnings to drivers.
Smart Junctions 5G uses a private 5G network to enhance the Vivacity Labs’ Smart Junction Project—an AI-based traffic signal optimisation system, currently being deployed in Manchester. This has already been shown to cut waiting times at traffic signals significantly, prioritise traffic by class, and respond dynamically in emerging situations. By using a 5G small cell network, the project is decreasing the infrastructure cost for the connection of the sensors at every junction. Critically, the system requires low-latency communications to achieve its goal-making small cell; this showcases 5G as the perfect technology to deliver this saving.
Ericsson and Scania are collaborating in Sweden to explore the capabilities of 5G to deliver intelligent transport systems. At a macro level they expect to be able to demonstrate how advanced connectivity can improve commuting by enabling demand prediction, dynamic trip planning and integrated payment solutions. It is expected that transport and local authorities will be able to continually analyse commuting patterns and use these insights to model and plan for upcoming sports events, concerts or road maintenance projects. At a micro level, they are also exploring the impact of providing bus or truck drivers with real-time contextual information and tailored recommendations to improve efficiency. For instance, dynamic shifts to routes or advice about how long a bus driver should wait at a bus stop. Ericsson has also worked with Veoneer to demonstrate geofencing capabilities whereby vehicles in a certain geographic location can receive contextualised information and dynamic instruction for speed advisories.
In Detroit, five smart intersections have been deployed across a two-mile stretch. Traffic lights have been connected to video cameras with real-time access, enabling rapid analysis and quick responses to changing conditions: for example, emergency services can be prioritised while green light signals are extended to cyclists who otherwise would not be able to clear the junction in time. The city is also exploring the potential to also prioritise signals for both buses and freight-carrying trucks.
The NordicWay project is delivering cellular intelligent transport demonstrations in multiple Scandinavian countries, from road work and emergency vehicle warnings to green light speed advisories being delivered to vehicles in real-time. They are also exploring the option of dynamically managing traffic: for instance, responding to air quality levels and sending notifications to hybrid cars in the vicinity to switch to electric.
With the adaption of traffic lights to changing traffic in real-time, on-road movement can be controlled by traffic light timing that adjusts itself by the second. The changing traffic scenario and the timing at intersections can be shared through interoperable communication so that all intersections are prepared to optimise the flow of approaching traffic. A pilot system deployed at Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, has reportedly reduced travel time by 26 percent, idling time by 41 percent, and emissions by 21 percent. Interestingly, the adaptive traffic light system also reduced total and fatal incidents by 13-36 percent.