Intelligent traffic management is one of the key areas being addressed by Siemens’ new Infrastructure & Cities Sector, which started operating on October 1.
In a pilot project in Texas, US, Siemens is developing intelligent transportation technology for the fast and orderly evacuation of citizens. In this project, trafficlight timing systems register traffic flow and adjust the phases of red and green light accordingly. The traffic density data collected by the systems is also incorporated into digital road maps, which drivers can download onto their smartphones or navigation systems in order to find the quickest routes out of town. In an emergency, the system can centrally control all traffic lights. The US Department of Transportation supports the project in its IntelliDrive programme, a research initiative focused on networking vehicles and infrastructure.
The project is being conducted in Harris County, Texas, which includes the greater Houston area. With its more than four- million inhabitants, Harris County is one of the most populous counties in the US. When Hurricane Ike hit Texas in September 2008, the county was faced with the challenging task of evacuating thousands of residents in what was the third-most costly disaster in US history. Intelligent traffic technology will help make such emergency situations less challenging in the future.
For the project in Harris County, Siemens’ Intelligent Traffic light timing system, estimates the number of vehicles by registering the signals emitted by the drivers’ cellphones. The associated software is supplied by Siemens’ global research unit, Corporate Technology.
Comparative tests with procedures that calculate traffic density on the basis of stationary toll tag readers, such as those used for congestion charges, have shown that the Siemens system provides reliable data, even if only a few drivers have their cellphones switched on.
The system has now been installed at 400 intersections in Harris County. The organisers plan to standardise communication between emergency vehicles and the infrastructure so that trafficlights will automatically turn green whenever a fire truck, police car or ambulance approaches.
The system could even coordinate trafficlights if several emergency vehicles approach an intersection simultaneously. Siemens is currently developing such a system for testing by the US Department of Transpor- tation.
Intelligent traffic management is not only useful in emergencies – it also improves everyday traffic flows, reduces noise and the number of accidents and traffic jams, and benefits the environment.
In cooperation with automotive manufacturer BMW, Siemens has demonstrated that communication between traffic lights and engine control systems can reduce fuel consumption by shutting off the engine just before a traffic light turns red.