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Green light for Kent’s first smart traffic lights to keep motorists moving

Waiting at traffic lights by roadworks makes many motorists see red.

From Press releases - 7 May 2019 12:00 AM

Green light for smart traffic lights to keep motorists moving 1.jpg

So UK Power Networks has been working with Kent County Council and The Traffic Group to develop ‘smart’ traffic lights which increase traffic flow by up to 24%, cut pollution and reduce costs.

The new Auto-Green system uses radar technology, inspired by smart motorway technology, to automatically adjust signals to suit the volume of traffic, reducing wait times for drivers. The system accurately tracks vehicle movements and uses this information to optimise the operation of the lights, varying the decision-making algorithms and timings.

The new system was trialled last week (April 29 to May 3) on roadworks at Tonbridge Road, Maidstone, where UK Power Networks has carried out a £10,000 project to ensure more reliable power supplies for the local area by upgrading an electrical junction box.

Paul Dooley, streetworks performance manager at UK Power Networks, said: “This is the first trial in Kent using this technology which we hope will improve journeys by optimising the length of time for traffic lights to be green.

“Sometimes we need to dig up roads to install, upgrade or repair underground power cables and temporary traffic lights are usually necessary to ensure the safe passage of road users around these sites. We are always looking for ways to improve services and by applying smart technology we may be able to reduce the impact of essential roadworks in our local communities while also cutting emissions from having fewer vehicle engines idling.”

Kent County Council highway policy and inspections manager, David Latham, said: “I am pleased to see the results of research, with funding contributions from the Kent Lane Rental Fund, coming to fruition. These lights never get tired or stop monitoring and optimising themselves to maximise traffic flow, ensuring that any disruption is always kept to a minimum. This technology is better for drivers and the site operatives.”

Developers of the technology, AGD Systems, say benefits include a 24% increase in cars per hour passing through roadworks compared to traditional traffic lights, improvements to air quality and lower costs. The system can also work better than manual traffic light control, often used on traffic sensitive roads at rush hour, because traffic conditions are difficult to evaluate and staff sometimes experience abuse.

The project is being delivered through the Kent Lane Rental Innovation Fund to help understand the potential benefits of the new technology. Trials have already taken place in Essex, Hertfordshire and Northamptonshire.

The findings are currently being considered and if successful, smart lights could be deployed across the county and the other areas UK Power Networks serves in future.