Technology spies to control traffic
Sunday 06 August 1995
Their skills in tracking and identifying enemy aircraft or tanks are being adapted to tracking cars and lorries, while high-resolution spy cameras are being used to photograph the number plates of erring vehicles. Meanwhile, other hi-tech companies are turning their attention to the roads - the same technology that was developed to keep track of pigs and prisoners, for example, should be just as good at monitoring Ford Mondeos.
The Government has announced that eight consortia will take part in road pricing tests (which will include a non-charging pilot on the M3). These are just a few of the many schemes being run worldwide to bring hi-tech to the traditionally unexciting world of traffic management. The industry hopes it will re-ignite a market that is worth pounds 700m-pounds 800m a year but that has has been marking time for the past 20 years. Until the mid-1970s, it grew rapidly on the back of junction controls - mostly traffic lights. Then it matured and many players left the stage, selling their subsidiaries to the handful of companies that stayed in. In the UK, the leaders now are Siemens, which bought Plessey's traffic management company, and the quoted Peek.
In the past five years, growing congestion, combined with the need to raise revenues, has led to increased interest in more sophisticated systems. The EC set up its Drive programme to look at better ways of managing traffic, while the US government backed the Intelligent Transport Systems programme. As a result, traffic technology has leapt from simple vehicle detectors buried beneath roads to complex systems that can involve electronic tagging, microwave or infrared links, satellite positioning and sophisticated data transfer.
The experiments now under way come in two flavours, urban and motorway. Urban schemes are designed to reduce congestion rather than raise revenue: they can be complex traffic flow schemes, or they can restrict vehicle numbers. The first electronic system designed to restrict access to a city is planned for Singapore, which already has a low-tech traffic restriction scheme. GEC-Marconi is bidding to install this system.
Motorway schemes are designed primarily to raise revenue, usually to maintain the roads. Toll motorways are widespread but always involve a booth at which vehicles must stop and pay. Future toll motorways will not have booths - instead vehicles will carry electronic tags, possibly embedded in the windscreen, which will "talk" to sensors on overhead gantries.
The British experiment will try out a number of different systems. For example, cars will talk to the roadside by microwave or infrared beam, while the satellite Global Positioning System - already used to tell dispatchers where London's cabbies are - will also be tested. Enforcement will generate a lot of solutions, too: most, but not all, will rely on high-resolution cameras.
- 1 Which country would be hardest to invade?
- 2 The man who filmed the Freddie Gray video has been arrested at gunpoint
- 4 Floyd Mayweather's mouthguard costs $25,000 - enough to fly to Las Vegas and back 18 times
- 5 Royal baby girl born: Duchess of Cambridge's second child will be a princess thanks to Queen
Which country would be hardest to invade?
Morgan Freeman on the riot-focused coverage of the Baltimore protests: 'F**k the media'
The Rothschild Libel: Why has it taken 200 years for an anti-Semitic slur that emerged from the Battle of Waterloo to be dismissed?
The man who filmed the Freddie Gray video has been arrested at gunpoint
Nepal earthquake: Many survivors receiving no help despite relief effort
Over 50,000 families shipped out of London boroughs in the past three years due to welfare cuts and soaring rents
EU asylum policy is 'a direct threat to our civilisation', says Nigel Farage
Indonesia executions live: 'Hysterical' families heard prisoners being shot dead by firing squad
General Election 2015: SNP and its activists 'openly racist' towards the English, Farage says
EU exit would hit UK economy much harder than neighbouring countries, study finds
General Election 2015: UK will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power, Labour warns
iJobs Money & Business
£16000 - £18500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an excellent opportunit...
£24000 - £28000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Senior SEO Executive is requi...
£16000 - £18000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An Online customer Service Admi...
£18000 - £22000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This global, industry leading, ...