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Toronto launches trial to test two smart traffic systems

The Canadian city aims to trial different smart traffic technologies during 12 months in order to replace its current traffic system

The city of Toronto, in Canada, announced the launch of two smart traffic signal pilot projects which will be able to independently adjust to real-time traffic conditions.

“The city is finally moving into the 21st century and embracing technology that can improve traffic,” said Mayor John Tory. “Over the last three years, we have finally focused on fighting traffic in Toronto and improving commute times.”

Unlike standard traffic signals that are fixed to a set timing cycle for morning and afternoon rush hours and off-peak times, the new smart signals will be able to adjust traffic signals independently to respond to real-time traffic patterns at any time of the day. They can also communicate and synchronize with other smart signals in the vicinity to alleviate congestion.

Toronto currently uses a mix of traffic systems, some of which are over 20 years old, to control about 2,400 traffic signals across the city.

Under the smart traffic initiative, Toronto will test two technologies over the next year to determine which works best for Toronto. The city will pilot a technology called InSync which makes decisions based on video-analysis camera detection that measures queue lengths on the approach to the intersection and relays that data to the signal. This system is mainly used in the U.S.

The second smart traffic system that will be tested is called SCATS which is used in Australia, Asia and the U.S. This technology makes decisions using radar detection to measure traffic flow on both sides of the intersection.

Both systems will be compared to determine which of them will be implemented across the city.  Both systems’ performance and effectiveness will be measured by comparing before-and-after traffic volumes and travel times using new count stations and Bluetooth detectors.

In the U.S, a number of cities and states have recently announced plans to deploy smart traffic systems. Maryland’s Governor Larry Hogan recently announced the Maryland Department of Transportation (MDOT) is investing $50.3 million to deploy smart traffic signals that will improve traffic operation and ease congestion for approximately 700,000 drivers per day on 14 major corridors across the state.

The authorities said the smart traffic system uses real-time traffic conditions and computer software that adjusts the timing of traffic signals, synchronizes the entire corridor, as well as artificial intelligence (AI) to keep traffic moving.

Smart traffic management is a system wherein centrally-controlled traffic signals and sensors regulate the flow of traffic through the cities in response to specific demand levels. This type of implementation allows cities to:

-Reduce traffic congestion by smoothing traffic flows and prioritizing traffic in response to demand in real time;

-Reduce pollution throughout the city. These systems eliminate stop-start driving, which is inefficient and polluting;

-Give priority to buses approaching intersections, phasing lights to give traffic flowing with buses a ‘green wave’ through the city.

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