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UK project to trial real-time traffic simulation to improve air quality

A new project that is aiming to advance real-time traffic management with the specific goal of reducing air pollution is to begin trialing in three demonstration sites in the UK’s east Midlands region. 

With air quality and traffic management considered high priority policy issues for both central government and local authorities, a key strength of the system is its modular nature and ability to interface with existing and future advanced traffic management systems (ATMS).

The Urban Traffic Management and Air Quality (uTRAQ) project uses satellite-generated atmospheric data to help local authorities devise traffic management strategies for reducing pollution levels and hotspots. The project is part funded by the European Space Agency (ESA) and led by the UK’s Transport Research Laboratory (TRL) in collaboration with TSS-Transport Simulation Systems (TSS) and the University of Leicester in the UK's Midlands.

The uTRAQ project breaks new ground by bringing air quality and weather monitoring systems, modelling and traffic forecasting tools, and adaptive management systems into one single, user-centric intelligent integrated solution. An intelligent decision support tool enables a traffic control operator to implement traffic control strategies that can be used to mitigate the effects of local traffic air pollution, reduce pollution hotspots and exceed air quality thresholds.

Developed under the ESA’s Advanced Research in Telecommunications Systems' (ARTES) 20 Integrated Applications Program (IAP) , the uTRAQ project aims to: demonstrate and promote how space applications can be used for the management of traffic and air quality; provide city-wide data for traffic and air quality for the support of policy decisions at an operational level; develop a new operational service in close participation with local authorities for managing their traffic and air quality through broad participation by key factors, such as local authorities, SMEs, and other industrial businesses; and demonstrate a manual/automatic monitoring and decision support tool to aid traffic management at an operational level, considering a range of policy level objectives.

The uTRAQ system integrates software components that enhance an existing UTC (Urban Traffic Control) system, in this case SCOOT (Split Cycle Offset Optimization Technique), in order to allow the optimization of traffic signal timings for both improved air quality and traffic flow, instead of just for optimal traffic flow.

Traffic data, air quality data and meteorological data integrates with a modular traffic management system that collects, filters, processes and analyses the data feeds. A key feature of the project is its use of the latest air quality and traffic software models to generate test strategies: TSS’ Aimsun Online is the real-time, simulation-based traffic prediction module providing live forecasts for upcoming traffic conditions, while the University of Leicester team is providing the air quality (AQ) module, which will identify AQ data feeds and generate real world forecasts, ‘now-casts’ and emissions profiles from the traffic model for each test strategy. The combination of feeds will enable uTRAQ to identify points, routes or areas where AQ is a problem.

Over the course of the next year, the uTRAQ system will be tested at three locations: the first is in cooperation with Leicestershire County Council and involves the A6 corridor, which approaches the city from the south east and is considered one of the busiest stretches of road in the county; the second test site is Northampton, where the uTRAQ team will model up to 66 road junctions, most of which have SCOOT, and can use GNSS data from the city’s buses (pictured) to fine-tune performance; the final site is in the city of Leicester, including some adjacent sites in the county, with control available through 122 controlled junctions with access to intensive AQ monitoring facilities and data such as Airviro.

Leicester currently has the worst air quality in the UK and the ninth worst in the EU, in terms of numbers of days exceeding minimum acceptable levels.

May 18, 2015

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