After returning from a business trip in China, a colleague described how the navigation tells the drivers there how many seconds the next intersection will turn green. The driver thus adjusts the speed so that he does not stop unnecessarily and does not have to start again. It’s more sophisticated than our old traffic lights that showed the optimum speed for the green wave. These traffic lights are now gone. But perhaps also thanks to the research they are doing in Pilsen, we will soon have similar navigation as in China. Or even better?
The intersection recognizes the accident
A driver standing at a red light on Plzeň’s Náměstí Míru probably doesn’t even know that he is at a smart intersection. It is about what the intersection is equipped with in its bowels. Current equipment can, for example, recognize an accident. “Thanks to the cameras and the neural network, we have the information that two cars collided, but the artificial intelligence is not going to snap its fingers and solve it,” explains Luděk Šantora, director of the Information Technology Administration of the City of Pilsen, an organization dealing with the use of artificial intelligence in traffic management.
The system can, for example, alert the dispatcher to the city police. He looks at the camera footage and decides whether it is necessary to call an ambulance or the police, or wait until the drivers come to an agreement and leave.
But the artificial intelligence itself can find out which lane is occupied. You must have waited for the green light for a long time in vain, but it still didn’t come. This often happens to cyclists or scooter drivers. The induction loop does not detect them. If it was more sensitive, it can also react to the occupation of the adjacent lane, thus letting cars out of the lane where there is no one. A camera system can solve this problem. He sees where a car or cyclist is parked and which lane is free.
Camera for pedestrians
But cameras at smart intersections also monitor pedestrians, of course. Unlike their big brother in China, the Czech ones do not yet deduct points from the social credit for running into the red light. But in the future, it cannot be ruled out that the image from the camera will match the image of the face with the police database and send the pedestrian a call to pay a fine, just as similar letters go to drivers for speeding.
But for now, such a camera only helps pedestrians. When it notices that there are more people waiting at the crossing than usual, it can give them the green light earlier, perhaps at the expense of a lane that is empty or only minimally occupied. And that’s not all.
If, for example, a person with a leg in a cast enters the intersection on a green light and walks extremely slowly, the camera will see him again and react. Pedestrians will already have a red light, but cars crossing the given crossing will wait until the slow pedestrian is on the other side. When the intersection already has information about the pedestrian, it can send it to navigation. This is useful when a car turning right gives priority to pedestrians.
“When someone walks very slowly there, you get a message through the communication system – look, you may not see there, but there’s a grandmother,” Luděk Šantora explains with some exaggeration. In addition to warning the driver with a voice message, the assistance system of the future could also brake or stop the car in this case.
Ambulance in navigation
Smart intersections can also recognize an ambulance or a firefighter or police car and clear the way for it. For example, the infotainment systems of vehicles standing in the ambulance’s path will hear: “Attention! An ambulance is approaching you from behind, make a lane for them to pass through!” Correct planning of the route to the scene of the emergency is also important for rescue vehicles.
So the driver of the ambulance or fire truck enters where he is going. And in addition to the navigation choosing the fastest route based on data from cameras and other sensors, it can, for example, clear a congested street or a blocked intersection ahead of time through traffic lights. “With beacons, a car can run a red light. But it’s easier if we use a traffic light to clear his way and the ambulance goes through on the green light,” adds Šantora. Artificial intelligence can guide the rescuers to their destination even during peak hours.
But for the system to work 100%, 100% of the traffic lights would have to be equipped with smart technologies.
Smart public transport preference
Trams or buses get priority green at a number of intersections. But they don’t always need it. If the connection is on time, or even has a head start, the smart intersection cancels the preference. He’ll do the same if he’s already so far behind that it doesn’t matter anyway.
In addition, depending on the intensity of traffic, the system can prefer only public transport, but make intercity lines wait, or handle them only after city connections.
Big brother with artificial intelligence
Cameras connected to artificial intelligence recognize, for example, an accident at an intersection. But they can also warn of a person who has tripped and remained lying on the tram tracks. At the same time, it is possible to pursue a driver fleeing from the scene of an accident in this way. If he runs away from the cameras, a drone can fly after him.
Smart and clean
The technologies they are testing in Pilsen will contribute not only to faster transport, but also to cleaner air. “Studies from abroad show that the amount of dust particles will drop by thirty percent. Nitrogen oxides also go down,” Luděk Šantora, director of the Information Technology Administration of the City of Pilsen, mentions the benefits of smart intersections.
AI also guards Pilsen against terrorists
When the microphones in the center of Pilsen hear a shot, they warn the dispatcher. He then checks the place through the cameras and finds out if someone’s car just got a flat tire, or if there are really shots being fired in the streets.