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Cambridge’s smart traffic signals: Artificial intelligence used to help improve flow at key junctions





Camera-based sensors and machine learning are being trialled at some of Cambridge’s busiest junctions to help cut congestion and improve air quality.

The 12-month trial will investigate how they can be used to optimise traffic signals to improve traffic flow, reduce journey times and help tackle air pollution.

The new traffic system installed at the junction of Hills Road and Brooklands Avenue . Picture: Keith Heppell
The new traffic system installed at the junction of Hills Road and Brooklands Avenue . Picture: Keith Heppell

Claire Ruskin, Greater Cambridge Partnership (GCP) executive board member, said: “We know our traffic lights need to be more intelligent and we are finding new technology solutions that can help the way people make their daily journeys.

“These new sensors can monitor different types of road users, and use that data to change traffic flows, potentially helping to cut congestion and improve air quality. We will use the data to inform future projects and interventions.”

The majority of traffic signals across Cambridgeshire use fixed algorithms to make decisions about traffic signal operation. Using machine learning, the new signals will, over time, learn what works best to manage traffic flows more effectively.

Camera-based artificial intelligence sensors are able to anonymously identify different types of road users and adjust traffic signal timings accordingly – allowing different modes of transport to be prioritised.

The GCP-funded project formed part of a wider package of measures approved by the authority’s executive board last week.

The board also backed a green recovery with key investments to clean up the bus fleet and improve the bus network, expand active travel routes and develop a new parking strategy for the city.

The new traffic system installed at the junction of Hills Road and Brooklands Avenue. Picture: Keith Heppell
The new traffic system installed at the junction of Hills Road and Brooklands Avenue. Picture: Keith Heppell

The trial also has the potential to improve air quality by reducing emissions from idling vehicles.

Installation of the sensors began this month and when all the systems have been set up they will be tested and fine-tuned.

Trials will start in the summer and a report on the initial findings will be available in the spring of 2022.

The pilot scheme will be trialled at the following junctions:

  • Hills Road-Brooklands Avenue
  • Hills Road-Cherry Hinton Road
  • Cherry Hinton Road-Clifton Road
  • Robin Hood corner

If the trial proves to be successful, the GCP will consider how further investments in artificial intelligence-powered traffic signals could be rolled out in the future.

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