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Smart traffic solutions are being rolled out around the world to reduce congestion, but certain factors might limit adoption

DEC 14, 2022 | Rohan Bansal
region: ALL Transportation & Storage Internet of ThingsHyperconnectivity

Growing numbers of vehicles and high levels of congestion are causing more emissions in most major cities and having a negative impact on the economy. This blog post examines how smart IoT solutions are being used to tackle the challenges.

Traffic management is one of the major challenges faced by cities due to overcrowding, increasing number of daily commuters, outdated road networks, and increasing vehicle ownership due to higher income. The growing use of automobiles has led to high traffic congestion in most major cities around the globe, leading to higher wastage of time and fuel and more greenhouse gas emissions. As per a report published in 2020, urban traffic congestion costs almost 1% of the EU’s annual GDP, equating to EUR270 billion (USD276.3 billion) and accounting for 40% of road transport CO2 emissions.

Implementation of smart traffic monitoring solutions can reduce congestion and enforce traffic laws within cities

Smart traffic systems can reduce the idle time of vehicles and prevent congestion. When implemented, smart traffic solutions can help citizens save massively on wasted fuel and thus, further help the government achieve their sustainability targets. According to a white paper published by Interdigital and Transforma Insights, improvements to road traffic monitoring and control are expected to save 290TWh of fuel globally by 2030. According to another report published by American Public Transportation Association, usage of public transportation is estimated to halt the emission of 37 million metric tons of CO2 annually in the US and reduce energy consumption, equal to 4.2 billion gallons of petrol each year.

Traffic management systems monitor the daily road activities to provide better road facilities to the citizens. They collect road data through sensors, cameras, and RFID units in real time and provide insights on the density and number of cars at each point in time on the roads. Smart traffic management solutions can also help in reducing traffic by controlling traffic lights, prevent accidents on roads by ensuring a smoother flow of traffic, reduce the wait time and thus the fuel consumption of the vehicle, and maintain law and order in cities.

Apart from reducing congestion, emissions, and enforcing road traffic laws, these smart systems are also highly beneficial in preventing road accidents and ensuring a smoother flow of traffic. Smart road signs are also being implemented to allow drivers to access most road and traffic related updates, such as the speed limit of a particular area, and other road signs that they need to adhere to while driving on any road. Drivers can also get updates regarding the journey times on their routes and the presence of any potential traffic jams enroute that might enable them to alter their travel route in due time.

Traffic management solutions are also being implemented to manage payments at toll booths

Traffic management solutions are not only being implemented to better manage the traffic congestion in cities but also to ensure a quick turnaround at toll booths by speeding up the payment process. The time spent waiting is as high as 9 minutes 57 seconds on average in India, which not only increases travel time and congestion on road, but it is also responsible for causing a lot of unnecessary emissions. India is said to be losing INR 12 billion (USD150.4 million) in wasted fuel, person hours, and emissions caused by congestion at toll booths annually.

IoT technologies have been deployed to speed up the process, including the use of electronic toll signals using automated number plate recognition (ANPR) cameras or on-board transponders to set, administer and enforce payment. The same approach has also been extended to smart road pricing schemes. Both ANPR and onboard solutions are often used in tandem to limit the downsides of both and ensure a smoother and faster way of payment at the toll gate. ANPR cameras will allow the detection of vehicles without onboard identification devices and transponders tags will significantly improve the accuracy of vehicle detection.

Government around the globe is investing heavily to implement these solutions, however certain factors constraint their growth

Governments are investing heavily to deploy these smart systems in as many places as possible. Singapore, for example deployed a USD12 billion budget in 2018 for transportation development by connecting infrastructure equipped with sensors for managing traffic and preventive maintenance. Singapore’s extensive use of Road Traffic Monitoring & Control has made it one of the least congested cities in the world. New York City has also invested in adaptive signals and has installed cameras and sensors at more than 10,000 intersections. The city of Paris is also investing EUR100 million to establish intelligent transport systems and adapt infrastructure to deploy connected and autonomous vehicles.

As much as smart road traffic monitoring and control solutions have their benefits, they have certain drawbacks which might limit their adoption: alternatives to road vehicles, the cost of smart transport infrastructure, and security and privacy concerns:

  • Despite heavy investments, many governments are planning to promote the use of public transport by either banning the movement of private vehicles at certain times during the day, or allocating roads based on the type of vehicle. According to a report published by American Public Transportation Association, usage of public transportation is estimated to prevent 37 million metric tons of CO2 annually going into the atmosphere and reduce energy consumption equal to 4.2 billion gallons of gas each year. Governments might also look to completely stop the flow of private vehicles from some areas by completely making them accessible to only pedestrians or cyclists.
  • Most cities in developed countries already have existing infrastructure and incorporating new technologies in conjunction with the existing one will be time consuming and expensive. Modern technology demands constant data transfer, and the deployment is not easy as they require better internet access as a slight disruption in connectivity may cause the entire system to crumble.
  • The possibility of vulnerabilities to these systems is also very high, leading to disruption of services and access to a large amount of citizen data being leaked – hence, multiple layers of security are required to ensure a smart hack proof traffic management solution. These barriers might limit the implementation of the smart solutions as many governments might face backlash from the citizens regarding their privacy and data safety, while they try to implement them on a large scale.

This blog post is based on research for the report 'Road Traffic Monitoring & Control: Implementing IoT to reduce road congestion and simplify payments at toll booths' published in November 2022.

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