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Smart traffic scheme tested with eye tracking cameras

A pilot scheme that allows traffic lights to ‘talk’ directly to motorists is being installed across Newcastle in the UK.

The communication system warns drivers of obstacles on the road, gives key road users such as ambulances priority at traffic lights, and helps drivers adjust their speed so they can pass through a series of lights on green.

The research is being led by Newcastle University. Part of the work will be carried out in the University’s DriveLAB, an electric vehicle with eye tracking cameras and a bio-belt which measures driver behaviour. Used in conjunction with new SatNav technology, the Newcastle University team will be able to analyse how drivers respond to the information from the communication system.

The aim of the project is to improve safety and reduce congestion and pollution by helping motorists drive more efficiently. Linking an in-vehicle communication system directly with the city’s Urban Traffic Management Control (UTMC) centre, the infrastructure will ‘talk’ directly to motorists, giving certain vehicles priority at junctions.

‘Traffic management systems are already in place across the city to improve traffic flow but what’s unique about this trial is that we will be giving personalised information directly to the driver,’ explained Phil Blythe, Newcastle University’s Professor of Transport.

‘For example, the system might advise a driver that if they travel at 24 miles an hour they will hit the next four sets of traffic lights on green. In more congested areas or particularly busy times of the day, then vehicles on key roads might be given priority in order to keep the traffic flowing.’

Initially, the system has been fitted to non-emergency North East Ambulance Patient Transport Service (PTS) vehicles based at the Freeman, part of the Newcastle Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust.

DriveLab was initially developed by Newcastle University to understand the challenges faced by older drivers, with a view to developing vehicle technologies that would support older people. The car can monitor eye movement, speed, reaction, lane position, acceleration, braking and driving efficiency.

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Vision in lane - Jessica Rowbury looks at the latest vision technology for ITS, including a system for monitoring six lanes of traffic

Further information:

Transport Operations Research Group, Newcastle University

Professor Phil Blythe


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