A pilot project that will see traffic lights ‘talk’ directly to motorists to inform the way they drive is being rolled out across Newcastle.
The communication system warns drivers of obstacles on the road, gives key road users such as NHS vehicles priority at lights, and helps drivers adjust their speed so they can pass through a series of lights on green.
Led by Newcastle University in collaboration with Newcastle City Council, Siemens and North East Ambulance Service, the aim is to improve safety and reduce congestion and pollution by helping motorists to drive more efficiently.
Linking an in-vehicle communication system directly with the city’s Urban Traffic Management Control (UTMC) centre, the infrastructure will ‘talk’ directly to motorists, giving certain vehicles priority at junctions.
Initially, the system has been fitted to non-emergency North East Ambulance Patient Transport Service (PTS) vehicles based at the Freeman, part of the Newcastle Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust.
PTS vehicles are used to take patients to and from hospital appointments, such as dialysis and cancer treatment. NEAS are piloting the technology to see if it can create a smoother journey for patients while at the same time, helping to cut the trust’s fuel bills.
“Traffic management systems are already in place across the city to improve traffic flow but what’s unique about this trial is that we will be giving personalised information directly to the driver,” explains Phil Blythe, Newcastle University’s professor of transport.
“For example, the system might advise a driver that if they travel at 24 miles an hour they will hit the next four sets of traffic lights on green. In more congested areas or particularly busy times of the day, then vehicles on key roads might be given priority in order to keep the traffic flowing.”