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According to the latest data from the AA, traffic on UK roads in the weeks when lockdown measures were in place was at a level similar to that of the late 1980s and early 1990s. At the beginning of the lockdown it fell to 35 to 40 percent of the volume before the coronavirus, but since then this value has doubled to around 75 percent. The UK’s CO2 emissions reportedly fell 31 percent in April but have since increased again.
As the locks wear off and the stores reopen, more people will or will have to move and traffic will soon return to normal or even increase. Due to the virus, many people are worried about traveling by public transport and they are increasingly using their cars again. We are currently seeing increased interest in private cars, car sales and registrations in many markets.
Authorities around the world are wondering whether the levels of congestion and pollution before the pandemic will return to their cities, or whether there is an alternative that can make them healthier, greener, and much smarter than before.
In the UK, the government’s priority is to invest in cleaner air and do more to tackle air pollution. In the past few decades, UK air quality has improved significantly thanks to concerted action at all levels, but there is much more to be done. Clean Air Zones are a measure to achieve this goal.
Even before COVID-19, less than half of respondents took part in a March survey conducted in the UK by Kapsch TrafficCom were willing to use public transport more often to avoid traffic jams. As a result, we can expect increased traffic on UK roads. When it comes to traffic damage – emissions, noise, and health effects – congestion itself is responsible for about a quarter of those effects, and a third at peak times.
The Kapsch TrafficCom Index, which surveyed 1,000 representatives of the British population, found that 75 percent were concerned about the possible negative effects on the environment. With this increasing congestion, almost as many are willing to use a navigation app to choose their route. Surprisingly, environmental considerations are not a priority for the majority of drivers when choosing a route. Instead, almost two thirds of the respondents said they wanted a route that guaranteed the shortest travel time. In addition, only 39 percent of those surveyed consider routes with the least impact on the environment to be “important” or “very important”.
The intelligent use of navigation devices offers opportunities to reduce traffic jams and traffic jams. This technology could also help achieve other desirable goals. For example, traffic planners could also consider environmental impacts such as CO2 emissions in their route recommendations. However, the survey results show that this would require a change in overall thinking for both citizens and cities.
“Intelligent navigation networks are a key technology for fundamentally reducing traffic jams and pollution on roads,” added Parsons. “The desire of drivers to use navigation tools to minimize travel times should be used by public planners. The aim is to offer digital traffic management solutions that take important social goals into account. Environmental protection is one of those important goals that will improve our daily life. ““ It should be noted that every city has a different transport policy and a different parking management system. This is not taken into account in conventional navigation systems and has undesirable consequences, ”said Steve Parsons, Head of Sales UK & Ireland at Kapsch TrafficCom. “This is causing more traffic jams than intended.”
For example, “adaptive” traffic light management systems that react quickly to certain traffic situations and change traffic have already proven their effectiveness. Such signal control systems have been installed in Madrid, Mumbai and Quito, and in the Spanish capital they have reduced traffic jams by around 20 percent.
The traffic jam volume is reduced even more if vehicle data is connected to the traffic control network. At the same time, CO2 emissions decrease and the flow of traffic can be distributed more evenly over the road network using route recommendations that drivers automatically receive in their cars. This combination of optimized traffic light control and intelligent route planning can reduce congestion by up to 40 percent.
“More intelligent control of the traffic lights alone could reduce road congestion by 25 percent,” commented Steve Parsons. “Digital technologies like artificial intelligence (AI) and big data processing could make a significant improvement at relatively low cost. All new cars are already equipped with smart tools, and cell phones have the tracking capabilities they need. Now all that remains is to upgrade the existing transport infrastructure. “
“These existing examples suggest that the situation on UK roads need not necessarily remain at an unsatisfactory level. We have the tools to solve the challenges and we can create a more sustainable path to a better future, ”said Parsons.
Published on August 5, 2020 – 08:00 UTC