Belgium’s Agency for Roads and Traffic (AWV) is working on an app that would soon allow you to get green faster at a traffic light. Public Dutch-language broadcaster VRT reports that. The new system should already work at some intersections in a few months. Linking the app to intelligent traffic lights will make traffic safer and smoother and reduce emissions.
The first rollout for 250 traffic lights
In March last year, the AWV announced that it was preparing traffic lights to operate intelligently at several locations in Flanders. The AWV manages over 1 700 intersections with traffic lights, 250 of which it is making intelligent in the first phase.
This puts Belgium alongside the global frontrunner, the Netherlands, where about 1 000 intersections are already equipped with similar technology. VRT says these traffic apps should work at Belgium’s first intelligent traffic lights in a few months.
Intelligent traffic lights
Intelligent traffic lights (iVRIs for short) communicate with other traffic lights and road users. Via a navigation app, you automatically make yourself known from a distance. This allows the traffic light to weigh up the traffic and see who has priority, depending on the type of road user and the situation at the intersection.
To be clear: emergency services are always given priority, and their direction of travel is automatically given green when they arrive. In the future, it should also be possible for cyclists and pedestrians to be given priority, but an app has yet to be developed. So initially, the app will only work for car traffic and trucks.
At a later stage also for cyclists
Two apps for motorists and truck drivers will work on iVRIs in Flanders: Flitsmeister and Karta G. However, the Flemish government also talks with major players such as Google Maps and Waze. You can download them on your smartphone, or they are already built-in in cars or bicycle computers.
Once the app can access your (anonymized) location data, the app and navigation function will automatically let the traffic light know you are coming. But, of course, all that info ends up in a central computer that controls the traffic lights. It thus allows it to decide whether to give you the green faster, depending on traffic density, but the positive effects of intelligent traffic lights do increase as more users connect to them.
According to VRT, the iVRIs are also planned to work for cyclists in the future, although an app has yet to be developed for that. But the newest and more expensive e-bikes are connected to the internet anyway. Soon, there will be a SIM card in each means of transport, which means you will no longer need separate apps, so the problem will eventually solve itself.
Privacy remains a delicate issue
Currently, the regulation of traffic lights is based on average traffic counts from the past. Still, because most mobility vehicles in the future will also be automatically connected to the internet, this will make it easier to detect and adjust traffic so that at some dangerous intersections, it will be easier for the weaker road user or public transport to get priority, for example. But sensors on the road can also ensure this.
Intelligent traffic lights are an essential part of the Flemish Mobilidata program, which aims to make traffic in Flanders safer, smoother, and more sustainable through innovative technological mobility solutions.
The VRT also points out in the article that the storage of all that data is always done anonymously, although it is not excluded that it can be deduced who the data is about.
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