SimplifAI is an AI-based traffic lights system designed to alleviate congestion and keep cities moving during particularly busy periods.
Designed by Professor Lee McCluskey of Huddersfield University, the project has been awarded more than £850,000 by Innovate UK. Under the name of ‘SimplifAI’ it optimises timings at traffic lights to ensure the least possible disruption to journeys.
Being stuck at traffic lights isn’t just frustrating; it also decreases productivity and has an environmental impact.
According to a study by the European Environment Agency, cars account for around 25 percent of total carbon dioxide emissions. While emissions have reduced from individual cars due to design improvements, this has been negated by the increase in traffic. Many hope the efficiency benefits of connected car technology will reduce the environmental impact of vehicles.
Using SimplifAI to reduce congestion quickly
Full V2V (Vehicle-to-Vehicle) and V2I (Vehicle-to-Infrastructure) capable vehicles and infrastructure are some years away. In the meantime, AI systems like SimplifAI can offer tangible benefits quickly and at relatively low cost.
“Artificial Intelligence is providing a tool for transport operators so they can deal with extremely complicated situations more quickly,” says Professor McCluskey. “In just a few seconds it can produce strategies composed of hundreds of different timings at traffic signals.”
Where an AI system comes into its own is during extreme scenarios where many decisions need to be made quickly. A human operator struggles with the simultaneous monitoring and decision-making of multiple, rapidly-changing situations. While AIs are designed to make rational decisions, humans are also subject to emotions such as panic which could lead to dangerous mistakes.
“Under normal conditions, existing traffic management and traffic signals are not too bad,” said Prof McCluskey. “But it is very difficult for managers when normal conditions aren’t met – for example when Man United are playing at Old Trafford, or when an inner ring road link is closed due to an accident. Or there might be bottlenecks that occur relatively frequently and you want to try and alleviate them.”
Following a feasibility study which led to the Innovate UK grant, SimplifAI will now be tested for real in Manchester. Other partners on the project include TfGM, FutureEverything, Human Centred Design, BT, and InfoHub.
You can find out more about SimplifAI here.
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