TfGM to test AI in managing Old Trafford traffic

Transport for Greater Manchester and the University of Huddersfield in consortium planning tests of artificial intelligence system for road networks

Transport for Greater Manchester (TfGM) is to take part in a trial of the use of artificial intelligence (AI) in controlling the flow of traffic.

Traffic lightsIt is working in a consortium with a team from the University of Huddersfield’s School of Computing and Engineering on a project to use the SimplifAI traffic management system in the Old Trafford area of the city.

The trials have been funded by an £850,000 award from Innovate UK and are due to begin later this year, scheduled for appraisal in March of next year.

The University of Huddersfield said the system can analyse data on the traffic flows and devise strategies for their management in a fraction of the time required by human operators. This can lead to steps such as optimising timings at traffic signals, adjusting indications of speed limits, closing lines and providing messages to drivers.

Dealing with difficulties

Professor Lee McCluskey, who led the university’s work on the system along with Dr Mauro Vallati, said: “Under normal conditions, existing traffic management and traffic signals are not too bad.

“But it is very difficult for managers when normal conditions aren’t met – for example when Man United are playing at Old Trafford, or when an inner ring road link is closed due to an accident. Or there might be bottlenecks that occur relatively frequently and you want to try and alleviate them.

“Artificial intelligence is providing a tool for transport operators so they can deal with extremely complicated situations more quickly. In just a few seconds it can produce strategies composed of hundreds of different timings at traffic signals.”

The university hopes that following the trials there will be scope to market SimplifAI as a smart city system to improve the reliability of transport networks, and that it could support the use of autonomous or driverless vehicles.

Other members of the consortium are development consultancy KAM Futures, innovation lab FutureEverything, Human Centred Design, information solutions company InfoHub and BT.

Image from the University of Huddersfield