In the background of cities around the world, technology is changing the way we move. In this article, we look at the tech side of traffic management systems; why we need them, how they work, and where the future is going.
Why we need to manage traffic
Traffic Management Systems (TMS) are a number of tools and applications that improve the overall traffic efficiency and safety of the transportation systems. In the real world, this translates into a connected network that measures and monitors traffic flow, adjusting it based on the needs of road users. In short, getting you from point A to B in the best way possible.
An effective TMS will minimize congestion (and emissions from idling vehicles), keep frustrations low, and move people through the city efficiently. With the current growth projections for urban centres, managing the flow of traffic is essential for city infrastructure to handle expansion, while keeping commuters happy.
Without an effective TMS, the costs add up. Congestion cost U.S. commuters approximately $305 billion in 2017, due“to wasted fuel, lost time and the increased cost of transporting goods through congested areas.” Even more expensive is the impact on human health; TMS ensures rapid emergency response deployment, where a few seconds can mean the difference between life and death.
Tech & traffic management
The idea of traffic management is not new – it’s been an essential component of municipal transportation services for decades. However, TMS has traditionally lived within stationary data centres, located in a municipal office or building. With advances in technology, as well as new opportunities, cities are moving the central “brain” of a TMS to cloud-based technology. Shifting to the cloud means a more resilient and flexible system, with increased security from physical and cyber threats.
A TMS is only as good as the data it collects, using information from across the transportation ecosystem: connected vehicles as well as infrastructure, in-road/roadside sensors, traffic lights, and publicly available information (such as navigation app Waze). Moving to a cloud opens up opportunities to connect to new data sources, refining operations through available information.
A typical system has three main steps to manage traffic flow: information gathering, information processing, and service delivery. Once the data has been collected, the system analyzes it for potential traffic hazards, which are then managed by a variety of service delivery options (think light sequences, highway information message boards, or road closures). This is a constant process, allowing cities to be responsive 24-hours a day.