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Cambridge Partnership trials AI sensors at road crossings

Starling sensor fixed to traffic light
Image source: Starling Technology

Smart sensors are being trialed in Cambridge to make it safer for people to cross the road by using artificial intelligence to reduce waiting times for pedestrians and road users.

The project is a collaboration between the Greater Cambridge Partnership (GCP) and Starling Technologies with support from Cambridgeshire County Council’s (CCC) traffic signals team.

The technology, which is being tested at East Road in Cambridge, uses cameras with AI to identify different types of users so it can learn to predict when people will want to cross the road. Linked smart signals could then adjust automatically based on the amount of traffic and the number of pedestrians who want to cross at a particular location to keep people moving.

GCP said that this is aimed at providing a better understanding of how pedestrians move through signal controlled crossings and how their movements interact with cyclists and motorists on the road network, which is key to trying to smooth the flow of traffic across the city.

It added that in future the sensors could be used to change the demands for crossings further along the road and to flexibly manage the green pedestrian signal timings at times of peak demand. This could help to improve traffic flow by giving priority and additional crossing time to large groups and vulnerable users.

Pavement risk

The sensors will be able to monitor if there is a risk of too many people blocking the pavement, in which case they would send a message to reduce the time until the green pedestrian signal occurs. This could minimise disruption to gathering pedestrians on the footway and prevent other people having to walk in the road to bypass a blocked path.

They can also detect cyclists and so will be included in any data shared with the GCP and CCC transport teams to inform future decision making and provide a deeper analysis of the impact to the transport network of any changes to signal timings.

Dan Clarke, GCP’s head of innovation and technology, said: “This is an exciting piece of work that aims to cement Greater Cambridge as a leading city for innovation, research, and technology.

“This will help us to build on the innovative work already being delivered in the area by trialling new signals technology so that those cycling and walking have safer, quicker and more enjoyable journeys through the city.”

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