Traffic problems are poised to worsen as the population grows and more people gravitate toward cities. A few decades ago, the number of cars privately owned was small and it just a handful of public transport vehicles. People were few in the city and traffic jam was an alien term. Today, cars and people alike, are so many in the city.
Even with the new traffic lights installed, travelling through this traffic is a complete menace. Immobility creates frustration and wastes a lot of priceless time. Billions of hours are wasted in traffic jams each year. But are there people in the public and private sectors working to find solutions to this?
Central Uganda’s roads are already packed with traffic, and all signs point to the number of cars growing even more — especially in cities. According to demographic forecast, a staggering 60 percent of the world’s population will likely live in cities by 2030. And automotive analysts expect the demand for cars to grow as more and more people enter the middle class.
Despite the government’s endeavour to put up traffic lights and traffic officers on the roads, the traffic isn’t fluid as yet. Is it the bad roads? Are the roads few? It’s a perplexing situation. The government should be flexible and also encourage innovative solutions. There may be a cocktail of solutions to these traffic problems brewing, but nobody knows for sure which ones will work and which ones will be the most important or useful. I think technology must be incorporated into the existing infrastructure to curb this problem once and for all. But to do so will require a lot of puzzle pieces to fall into place.
Smart traffic signals that use artificial intelligence to react to traffic conditions in real time have been tested and worked like a charm in some parts of the world. These smart lights have been reported to reduce travel time by 25 percent, breaking by 30 percent and idling by more than 40 percent. Such a technology would be a great addition once deployed on some of our busiest intersections such as Jinja road intersection near the centenary park, Bwaise intersection on Bombo Road among others.
But how does it work?
Each traffic light makes its own decisions regarding when to turn red or green. First, a computer is put at each intersection with a detection camera or radar. Every individual intersection watches the traffic approaching it and in real time, it builds a timing plan, a sort of plan of how much green time it’s going to give to each road that approaches the intersection, so that the vehicles it’s seen through its detection get through as efficiently as possible.
After that intersection studying and analyzing the situation, it communicates expected traffic to the neighboring intersections. Those neighboring traffic lights go through the same process, each intersection working with information relayed by another intersection. Its those intersections communicating with one another that create the coordinated network behavior, and progressions of green as you move.
Surely this is a very expensive venture to put up. Starting with the main artery roads would work well since they see the most traffic. Imagine what heights we would reach if we are not worried about being stuck in jam for a long time.