Tackling UK traffic congestion: following Denmark's lead
Technological solutions that employ real-time traffic data are now being considered by governments worldwide as the answer to the congestion problem.
We all know how frustrating it is being stuck in traffic but it’s not until you quantify it that you see how much of a problem congestion really is.
Last year, the average British driver spent 124 hours sat in traffic, according to research carried out by INRIX and the Centre for Economics and Business Research (Cebr).
Frustrations will likely only continue as the population grows. The survey revealed that the amount of time people waste in traffic jams could rise to 136 hours in 2030 – costing the UK economy a staggering £307 billion.
Solving current and future congestion problems, then, is high up on the list of priorities for governments and transport agencies if they are to improve urban mobility.
We have already seen plans put into place to improve congestion. These include the proposals to widen and build more roads in the UK - reported towards the end of 2014.
Earlier this year, the UK government also announced it would invest £11 billion into the development of new 'expressways'. The creation of 400 miles of 'smart motorways' will see the upgrade of 18 existing routes with variable speed limits and the opening of the hard shoulder as a fourth lane at peak times. This will certainly help to ease congestion, but it won’t solve the problem alone.
Solutions which employ real-time traffic data derived from connected devices are, therefore, increasingly being considered by governments as the long term answer to the congestion problem. The number of connected cars is set to proliferate over the coming years, so it is a future-proof solution.
Combining GPS data from connected cars with GPS data from personal navigation devices, mobile apps and fleet vehicles provides transport agencies with a wealth of knowledge about the roads – information which was previously unavailable to them.
Consequently, decision makers in transport agencies can be provided with accurate real-time insights, arming them with the quality information they need to make well-informed decisions quickly.
Essentially, this real-time information enables agencies to better monitor and manage traffic and this is crucial to solving the congestion problem.
Denmark has certainly come to realise this. Just last week, it was announced that Denmark has become the first country in the world to rely on GPS probe data, provided by INRIX, to monitor traffic and better manage congestion across the country’s entire road network, totalling almost 2,500 miles of roads.
By implementing this smart solution across the country, Denmark’s transport agency, the Danish Road Directorate, now has a more accurate and immediate picture of what’s happening on the roads.
Consequently, they are able to detect extraordinary traffic queues faster, issue earlier warnings of congestion and make informed decisions much more efficiently to resolve these issues before they escalate.
It it’s not just the DRD that benefits from this real-time information. With a complete view of traffic congestion across the network, drivers can access more timely information, be alerted to congestion hot spots and be provided with re-routing options to ultimately improve traffic flow.
The future of driving will rely on providing drivers with the data to make the best transport decisions.
If we want to avoid the ominous prospect of being sat in traffic for 18 days of the year, we need smart, innovative solutions in addition to the building of more roads and infrastructure.
You only have to look at the opportunities big data driven solutions offer to see how they could revolutionise interurban mobility and transportation in cities. What is happening in Denmark is an opportunity to showcase how technological innovation can make a difference in other countries and cities around the world.
We are now at the tipping point of transport authorities embracing this technology. The successful use of real-time traffic data across Denmark will demonstrate to other public sector bodies how technology-lead innovation can improve urban mobility.
Smarter, data-based solutions will have a significant impact on congestion in the future. If governments want to prevent the traffic jams of tomorrow, could we see the innovations in Denmark being implemented a little closer to home? I certainly hope so.
The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of The Information Daily, its parent company or any associated businesses.
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