[ENT] New Smart traffic lights will turn green for cyclists

A smart traffic light system which prioritises cyclists over motorists is set to undergo trials at junctions in London and three other British cities. 

The artificial intelligence (AI) technology will be tested in Wolverhampton, Coventry and Southampton this month, with the aim to reduce the likelihood of accidents on busy roads. 

The trials, which were delayed amid the Covid-19 pandemic, will later reach south London, with developer Now Wireless explaining the firm has already been asked to supply a ‘key component’ for the project. 

As cyclists approach the AI-powered system, video cameras mounted on traffic lights detect riders and force opposing signals to turn red, the Times reported.

Lights then change to give the cyclist’s street priority at junctions, with any directional lights which could endanger road users also stopped.  

The technology can also be adapted for cycle-only signals, which give bikes priority over all other vehicles travelling in the same direction. 

 A new traffic light system which prioritises cyclists over motorists before they even arrive at a junction is set to undergo trials in three British cities. Pictured: Cycle lanes in Liverpool

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The innovative system, which costs less than £700 to install on each light, is a step up from existing traffic sensors – which struggle to acknowledge the presence of cyclists at all.    

However, news of the trial has been met with scepticism by some who insisted cyclists rush ‘straight through red lights anyway.’ 

One social media user added: ‘I don’t think this will make any difference.’  

‘Cyclists have never been ‘able’ to ignore red lights… it’s just some of them (not all) choose to,’ said another. 

Brian Jackson, CEO of Now Wireless, explained the system ‘deals with the reality that cyclists sometimes run through a red light,’ adding: ‘It does so by simply making sure it is always green for them.’

‘The system will allow councils to send a message, where appropriate, that cycling is being encouraged by giving riders priority,’ he said. 

The innovative system, which costs less than £700 to install on each light, is a step up from existing traffic sensors - which struggle to acknowledge the presence of cyclists at all. Pictured: Stock image

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The innovative system, which costs less than £700 to install on each light, is a step up from existing traffic sensors – which struggle to acknowledge the presence of cyclists at all. Pictured: Stock image

‘Our system can be calibrated to prioritise even a single cyclist approaching a junction.’ 

Around 35 per cent of cyclists have admitted to at least ‘occasionally’ ignoring a red light, a recent YouGov survey found. Another study suggested the red light jumping figure is as high as 57 per cent.    

This has heightened fears for safety on the roads, particularly with four in ten people cycling or walking more between May and July than before the Covid-19 pandemic hit in March.  

How signal lights currently respond to approaching traffic

Making cyclists a priority is not possible currently with traffic light equipment, which responds to traffic volumes in three ways:

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Sensor loop

These are built into the road in advance of a junction, responding to tyre pressure. 

Cyclists do not exert enough pressure to trigger the system.

Infra-red detection

This only responds to heat of engines, so cyclists are ‘invisible’.

Microwave detectors

This sensor only identifies presence of a vehicle there, not what type.

Around 94 per cent believe it is ‘likely that they would continue’ to travel by these means in the future, research by the Department for Transport found. 

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It comes as hundreds of pop-up cycle lanes were installed across the UK as part of the Government’s £225million plan to get Britain moving following the easing of lockdown.

In London, the new cycle lanes form part of Transport for London’s Street Space scheme, which is designed to encourage people to walk or cycle to work and school as an alternative to public transport.

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They have been blamed for causing chaos on important roads in the capital, with traffic squeezed onto narrow streets as nearby cycle lanes often remain empty. 

Previously, Now Wireless revealed its innovative smart traffic lights would help to combat rising levels of air pollution on Britain’s roads.

The AI-powered system can manipulate red and green lights to restrict traffic heading into air pollution hotspots, after gathering data on pollutant concentrations from historical records and sensors on the ground.

An algorithm then combines this with traffic patterns to predict locations likely to see a spike in air pollution within the next hour.

Drivers heading towards these locations will then be faced with red lights lasting up to 20 seconds longer than usual, to slow traffic influx to the affected area.   

Data from inside cars feeds into the system, with Bluetooth signals sent via phones and cars being picked up by sensors at traffic lights. 

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This helps the computer system curate a forecast of specific locales due for an influx of vehicles. 

People driving out of these areas will be shown prolonged green lights to help speed up the flow of traffic from areas that are heavily polluted. 

Mr Jackson told MailOnline in May: ‘We have worked on this for five years and it is a UK based R&D. 

‘Pollution is a dangerous problem for communities and being able to predict pollution an hour ahead allows time for traffic mangers to change the traffic flows to mitigate, if not remove it, and not create build ups elsewhere, but even it out.’

The system can then be adjusted in real-time as the patterns change, constantly manipulating traffic and reducing fumes spewed into the atmosphere by idling cars.

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