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Greater Manchester to roll out ‘smart’ junctions prioritising cyclists and pedestrians

Award-winning AI technology will be installed at 20 junctions across city-region by end of next year


Transport for Greater Manchester (TfGM) says it is to roll out across the city-region its award-winning ‘smart’ junctions that prioritise cyclists and pedestrians over motor vehicles.

Developed by Vivacity Labs, the initiative first went live earlier this year and last week won the Innovative Use of Technology award at the 2020 Intelligent Transport Systems, ITS (UK) Awards.

Sensors with artificial intelligence (AI) built into them mean that different groups of road users to be anonymously identified, enabling TfGM to prioritise different modes of transport as needed.

As a result, with greater numbers of people travelling by foot or on bike to avoid public transport due to the coronavirus crisis, those using active modes of travel can be prioritised.

The technology can also be used to improve air quality through reducing emissions by being able to respond to congestion and traffic queues quicker than existing systems can.

Forming part of a three-year programme funded by Innovate UK, the technology was trialled in September at three neighbouring junctions in the Blackfriars area of Salford.

> App developed to turn traffic lights green as cyclists approach

Mark Nicholson, CEO of Vivacity Labs, said: “Since the pandemic, commuter trends and traffic hotspots have changed completely, and cities need AI to help protect people no matter what mode of transport they take,” said Mark Nicholson, CEO of Vivacity Labs.

“Our vision is to help cities implement critical policies addressing safety, air quality, sustainable travel, and congestion, at a hyper-local level.”

Forming part of a three-year programme funded by Innovate UK, the technology was trialled in September at three neighbouring junctions in the Blackfriars area of Salford.

It will now be rolled out to 20 junctions across Greater Manchester by the end of next year, supported by the 5g Create fund from the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS).

Matt Warman MP, digital infrastructure minister at DCMS, commented: “Smart traffic technology is just one of the many ground-breaking areas the government is funding to pioneer new ways for artificial intelligence and 5G to transform our lives for the better.

“We're backing this initiative in Greater Manchester to improve the city's transport, reduce journey times and cut pollution. I look forward to seeing its positive impact and sharing the lessons across the UK.”

Richard Dolphin, TfGM’s highways network performance manager, said: “Having already developed an innovative product in terms of their sensing technology, Vivacity has become well-versed in the relevant standards and have made impressive strides in the continuing development of their Smart Junctions system.

“We’ve been really impressed with how Vivacity has approached this, assessing current ways of working and addressing the complexities of managing a multi-modal transport network. Hopefully, this development will continue into something that will positively disrupt the industry and revolutionise active travel in urban areas.”

Simon joined as news editor in 2009 and is now the site’s community editor, acting as a link between the team producing the content and our readers. A law and languages graduate, published translator and former retail analyst, he has reported on issues as diverse as cycling-related court cases, anti-doping investigations, the latest developments in the bike industry and the sport’s biggest races. Now back in London full-time after 15 years living in Oxford and Cambridge, he loves cycling along the Thames but misses having his former riding buddy, Elodie the miniature schnauzer, in the basket in front of him.

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Rik Mayals unde... | 3 years ago
1 like

As an aside, there is a fairly recently built new road which cuts across what was the old British Aerospace runway at Samlesbury, Lancashire, now a business hub. The lights at the southern end of the road are shite for cyclists. When I stop at the lights, and there is no traffic behind me, which is usual at the weekend as BAE mainly don't work, I can and have waited for almost ten minutes for the lights to change. They seem to be set up to prioritise the traffic flow between Preston and Blackburn. Any motor vehicles travelling on the new road trigger the lights, but cyclists don't. Against my better judgement, I now never wait at the lights, preferring to cross at the pedestrian crossing, or simply cycle through if the road is clear. It's quite ironic really, given that a hell of a lot of money has been spent on the roads in the area in recent years, installing a very good cycle path on the A59 at the opposite end which tales you onto very quiet lanes, including one purely for cyclists and pedestrians, heavily contributed to by BAE systems, who have a very healthy proportion of cyclists on their payroll. No thought at all has been given to cyclists needs at this end of the road.

wtjs | 3 years ago
1 like

I have no experience of this type of junction, but I expect this AI to be a lot better than people are anticipating. Cameras distinguishing between cyclists, dogs, pigeons, cars, buses, lorries.... are child's play, and I don't think that feature would add much to the cost. It's cheap to do things digitally.

bob.sweet | 3 years ago
1 like

This feels a bit strange given their recultance to do a simple change like adding a pedestrian cycle every time lights change.

NPlus1Bikelights | 3 years ago

Good news. Hope it's not just thermal cameras and AI, decent winter cycling gear can make you invisible to those.

P3t3 replied to NPlus1Bikelights | 3 years ago

There's no real mention of what the system actually does...

Looks like an overcomplicated expensive British solution.

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