Uriel Katz and Dvir Reznik from NoTraffic discuss a new technology revolutionizing how municipalities manage traffic.
The amount of traffic is increasing exponentially. In Canada, more than half a million vehicles are registered each year, and around the world there is a 12% increase in annual congestion. In addition to the frustration it causes drivers, congestion hurts the economy. In Canada alone, between time wasted sitting in traffic and increased emissions, traffic congestion is estimated to cost over $7.5 billion annually.
Meanwhile, the COVID-19 pandemic has changed traffic patterns. Before the pandemic, traffic peaked during the AM and PM rush hours. At the start of the pandemic, fewer commuters eliminated the AM rush. Now, some areas have more traffic than ever before, as hybrid working models create inconsistent patterns.
“Hybrid work will impact the flow of traffic for the foreseeable future,” said Uriel Katz, Co-founder and CTO of NoTraffic. “We are seeing two peaks in the AM as employees return to the office at staggered times. People are also driving instead of taking public transit, which creates more congestion.”
Traditional traffic management strategies can’t keep pace with these changes. More than 99 percent of signalized intersections still used fixed timing plans, where city planners use car counts to set the timings on lights. Every three to five years, planners count the number of cars that pass through each intersection over a 12-hour period. Then, they manually build signal timings for AM peaks, PM peaks, afternoons, nights and weekends.
“This model is no longer practical,” said Katz. “Traffic is dynamic, and accidents and road closures are hard to predict. Timings at the traffic signals are always off.”
Most municipalities also lack the technology to control signals remotely. Traffic managers must drive to hundreds of intersections to configure everything manually, which is inefficient and makes it hard for municipalities to respond to changing patterns quickly.
The evolution of municipal traffic management
A few years ago, Katz was driving home from a friend’s house at 2 AM and stopped at an intersection. He waited five minutes for the light to detect his car, going back and forth until he found the spot that triggered the signal.
Being an engineer, Katz knew that he could create a better system to control the flow of traffic.
“My goal was to develop smart traffic technology that makes roads intelligent and safe,” said Katz. “Using AI, we can continuously monitor intersections, simulate different scenarios and accurately predict traffic patterns 120 seconds in advance.”
The technology can also:
- Share information between intersections to coordinate signals and keep traffic flowing smoothly
- Improve overall traffic flow, leading to reduced emissions.
- Accurately detect vehicles to reduce driver frustration
- Prioritize traffic around facilities such as schools or hospitals
- Allow technicians to diagnose and manage the system remotely
- Help city planners improve safety at troublesome intersections and account for seasonal traffic variations
Click here to learn more about how smart traffic works with other smart city solutions:
How smart traffic technology lays the foundation for autonomous vehicles
In addition to solving immediate traffic management challenges, smart traffic technology also prepares municipalities for autonomous vehicles. Although there aren’t many self-driving cars on the road now, this will soon change. Around 1.4 million autonomous vehicles were sold in 2019. This number will reach 58 million by 2030 and almost 30 percent of these vehicles will be in North America.
“Smart traffic technology, combined with 5G, allows for real-time information-sharing between vehicles and intersections,” said Dvir Reznik, VP Marketing at NoTraffic. “It uses data from connected vehicles to smooth out traffic and can provide benefits whether one percent or 99 percent of a city’s vehicles are autonomous.”
This post is part of a series on transforming cities with smart technology. Check out the related posts here.
 Council of Ministers Responsible for Transportation and Highway Safety Urban Transportation Task Force, “The High Cost of Congestion in Canadian Cities (2102)”: https://cutaactu.ca/wp-content/uploads/2021/01/uttf-congestion-2012.pdf and CD Howe, “Cars, Congestion and Costs: A New Approach to Evaluating Government Infrastructure Investment” (2013):
 Council of Ministers Responsible for Transportation and Highway Safety Urban Transportation Task Force, “The High Cost of Congestion in Canadian Cities (2102)”: https://cutaactu.ca/wp-content/uploads/2021/01/uttf-congestion-2012.pdf and CD Howe, “Cars, Congestion and Costs: A New Approach to Evaluating Government Infrastructure Investment” (2013):https://www.cdhowe.org/sites/default/files/attachments/research_papers/mixed/Commentary_385_0.pdf