Cisco UK & Ireland Blog

Seeking smarter solutions to traffic congestion

February 25, 2019

AI and IoT can help improve everyone’s quality of life by making our roads smarter 

Have you travelled anywhere by road recently? Maybe you commuted to work, took your children to school or went shopping in your local town or city centre. If so, how far did you travel? And how long did it take?

I spend a lot of my working life travelling around the UK, and traffic congestion affects every town and city I visit. And it’s getting worse. If you regularly commute by road, you’ll no doubt have experienced its many negative effects:

  • Missed appointments: from hospital consultations to job interviews and work meetings, running late is disruptive and can have serious long-term professional and personal consequences.
  • Reduced productivity: businesses lose out when employees are stuck behind the wheel. And on the flip side, having to making up lost work time equals a stressful end to a difficult day.
  • Quality of life: UK drivers waste the equivalent to over a day each year stuck in traffic (three days if you live in London, one of the most congested cities in the world). Not only is this a waste of life, but idle and revving engines are both noisy and noxious, especially for residents on traffic-prone routes.
  • Road safety: being stationary for hours can make frustrated drivers act recklessly – speeding or carrying out dangerous manoeuvres. This can cause accidents, create more congestion and put pressure on emergency services.
  • Community impact: local businesses throughout our villages, towns and cities rely on visitors. The prospect of queuing on a ring-road followed by a 30-minute search for somewhere to park can make staying at home preferable to eating out, shopping or going to the theatre; the last thing our high streets need.

Traffic congestion affects our life choices, forcing us into decisions we wouldn’t otherwise make – staying in, driving longer distances to avoid bottle-necks, or not seeing our children before bedtime due to yet another motorway snarl-up.

Something in the air

I haven’t even touched on air pollution yet. Our roads are the main culprits in generating transport emissions, while our air quality levels are among the poorest in the western world. 8% of deaths in the UK each year are linked to pollution (50,000 people), with around 9,000 casualties in London.

A healthy world is a smarter world

There is an obvious connection between creating a smarter, less polluted environment and improving people’s health.

It’s something we’re exploring both at home and across the globe. In Southend-on-Sea for example, we’ve used our Cisco® Kinetic for Cities platform to monitor air quality. We’re also helping analyse the impact of traffic congestion in Swindon, while in Newcastle-upon-Tyne, we’ve helped monitor parking, bin capacity, air quality, traffic and road quality, using one street as a potential smart blueprint for the rest of the city – and possibly beyond.

AI in Adelaide

Further afield, over in Adelaide, we’ve invested in AI sensors to monitor traffic at one of the city’s busiest junctions, gathering real-time data on both vehicles and pedestrians. This will help planners calibrate traffic signals to alleviate congestion to improve traffic flow and potentially reduce road collisions.

Traffic congestion, air quality and road safety are all intrinsically connected. Improving one will have a positive impact on the rest. The same goes for parking, which is known to impede traffic, as people slow down/stop to look for a space.  Addressing these issues can also take some of the strain off our public services, particularly health and care (more on this another time).

Travel should be about making the most of our lives rather than being life limiting. With our smart, connected solutions, we’re proving that we can make this happen.

We’re involved in multiple smart communities projects including SwindonSouthend-on-Sea and Newcastle-upon-Tyne. Find out more by visiting our smart communities and local government web pages.


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