How Journey-Time-as-a-Service makes traffic management safer, easier and more flexible
Hampshire County Council uses Stratos from Yunex Traffic, featuring HERE journey time data, to manage its traffic system. Principal Traffic Engineer Andrew Webber spoke to HERE360.
The M27 highway just outside the British port city of Southampton is a busy road, but can be swamped with traffic when there is a cricket match at the Ageas Bowl. Along with county cricket, test matches and international games are held there, causing an influx of thousands to the area.
Thanks to Journey-Time-as-a-Service (JTaaS) and National Highways funding, spectators can receive information at the nearest exit from the ground that lets them know how long it will take them to get to the closest junction on the M27. It helps them plan their journey home, and local users of Hampshire County Council's (HCC) Twitter feed can get updates on their own routes.
“We have found this a really useful source of information to display to the public," Andrew Webber, HCC's Principal Traffic Engineer, told HERE360.
JTaaS helps travelers plan their trips and gives network operators an understanding of how traffic is moving, essential for making improvements. Traditionally, fixed infrastructure such as ANPR cameras and more recently Bluetooth and Wi-Fi sensors have been used to determine journey times along key corridors.
But these require fixed hardware that can be challenging to install. Fixed hardware installations can cause temporary traffic delays due to lane closures while it happens. They also do not give as much flexibility when routes change, such as the temporary surge to the M27 on cricket match days.
HERE and Yunex Traffic have teamed up to create JTaaS that uses HERE traffic data to send up-to-date information about transit across the county to its control room. On the Stratos traffic management system, developed and hosted by Yunex Traffic for Hampshire County Council, Webber's team can see where congestion is occurring and send out alerts to the public, as well as make changes to traffic signals to alleviate jams.
"The combined solution from Yunex Traffic and HERE provides an exceptional user experience that is more user friendly, flexible and faster to set up. This is mainly due to the data coming from the vehicles themselves rather than installing infrastructure on the road. The quality of the data is also more accurate when compared to Bluetooth systems," said Tim Wray, Head of Systems Sales at Yunex Traffic in the UK.
As early adopters, HCC has used the Stratos system since 2017. The team has been able to update residents — not only through its website and Twitter account but also on variable message signs (VMS) on roads.
These VMS tell drivers how long it will take them to get to a particular point, and Hampshire has about 30 of them. Nevertheless, times are changing.
“With changes to in-car technology, messages will be sent directly to vehicles in the future," Webber said.
He also hopes that HCC could start to use Stratos to trigger changes in the signal timings during events like those cricket matches, as the system has this capacity.
It already helps commuters in and out of Winchester, where there are two main routes. “We used to have an ANPR system, but it was difficult to maintain. The cameras would fail, for example, and there would be a high cost to get it up and running again," Webber explained. A Bluetooth device incurred similar issues.
Instead, the team uses HERE data which they can put straight onto their map and then display both routes side by side, so people can assess which is best for them. It helps them avoid delays that can arise because of accidents, temporary traffic lights or other reasons.
The road ahead
Apart from avoiding the need for workers to install hardware on busy roads at risk to their safety, there are several advantages to Stratos over previous methods of traffic management.
“We used a system called Comet before which was a server we kept in our basement," Webber said. “When we moved to a cloud-based system, we no longer had to worry about things like making sure the server was kept at the right temperature." It has also facilitated remote working as the team can log on from wherever they are.
“In the past, we had separate systems: one for VMS, one for journey time, and one for traffic signals. Now, everything comes into a single system," he added.
The Bluetooth devices also left gaps in the traffic data, which is not the case with HERE traffic data, Webber said. It can also be unreliable to depend on the public to self-report their journey times in busy moments.
The HERE data is anonymized, which means there are no complicated GDPR permissions required. The subscription cost works out well over time compared to maintenance costs of other methods, Webber added.
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