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Motorway traffic

Unlocking hidden capacity Fraser MacDonald

Faced with spiralling city populations and busier transport networks, the challenge of meeting public expectations is increasingly tough.

On average UK motorists spend over 100 hours a year stuck in traffic jams –they’re not impressed and it’s hurting the national economy. Yet capacity is already at breaking point, and regional authorities are grappling with austerity and budget cuts.

Something has to give. Or, to put it in a more optimistic light, something needs to help. The good news is that breakthroughs in mobile, in-vehicle, consumer, automotive and environmental technology – alongside big data analytics – are increasingly helping decision makers meet the city needs of tomorrow.

Often, it’s the marginal gains that make all the difference. If we can make a commuter’s day a few per cent more pleasant, then replicate those small improvements across many millions of commuters, five days a week, it can make a meaningful change to a city’s wellbeing.

Our proprietary Osprey traffic management system provides road network managers with a comprehensive view of traffic conditions, enabling them to take action to combat congestion. It pulls in data on flow and congestion information from traffic detectors, and journey time data from sources such as automatic number plate recognition and GPS data. Urban traffic control systems can provide further input,
while CCTV images allow operators to check network conditions.

Based on a geographic information system map, Osprey can also be linked to environmental data to allow pollution levels to influence traffic management decisions, while weather data allows for pre-emptive, targeted interventions to improve safety. Network managers can use Osprey to inform action, or automatic responses to pre-defined scenarios can be programmed, leading to immediate responses to manage sources of congestion on the roads.

Osprey is now in use in 14 local authorities around the UK, supporting congestion management in some of the UK’s largest cities. With improved traffic management, people now spend less time on gridlocked roads and more time doing the things they want to do.

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