Monday, October 10, 2011

Is smart road technology the answer to traffic gridlock?

Edmonton is the first North American city to sign up for the “smart road technology” intended to alert motorists on traffic gridlock.

The state-of-the-art system of cameras and sensors is set to be installed along Yellowhead Trail, one of the busiest arteries in the city, in the coming years.

How does the technology work?

Sensors installed in the pavement will pick up on accidents and gridlock and then send warnings to drivers via overhead digital signs.

This alert system will help motorists avoid annoying bottleneck situations, said Brice Stephenson, manager of Transportation Operations in Edmonton.

“If there's a collision or construction, or some other problem, we can tell motorists to use other routes,” he said.

The smart traffic technology is a joint project among various companies including German traffic logistics company PTV and carmaker BMW.

These companies hope that they could eventually feed alerts into the GPS systems of vehicles.

However, this software has not come cheap for Edmonton, which has already spent nearly $10 million on the cameras and sensors. Another $2 million is expected to be incurred for the smart road software.

What do Edmontonians say about the technology?

Edmonton motorists have differing opinions about this software; some say it is a band aid solution for other road problems, while others claim it is just a waste of money.

The city is currently in the planning stage of a 30-year long program designed to ease gridlock and enhance safety on Yellowhead Trail, where around 80,000 cars travel every day.

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