Super-smart traffic lights to be launched in South Africa - and could cut travel time by 26%

Business Insider SA
Stellenbosch University master's student Wilko Mohr and Stellenbosch Municipality's Deon Louw at a traffic light on one of the intersections in the R44 through town where a new traffic flow system will be piloted. (supplied, Justin Alberts)
  • Africa’s first traffic lights that use an algorithm and electromagnetic loops will be rolled out in Stellenbosch in 2019.
  • A similar rollout in India saw a reduction of 26% in travel time, and car queues shrinking by 37%.
  • The algorithm uses a combination of cameras and electromagnetic loops under roads to adjust traffic lights.

South Africa’s very first algorithm optimised traffic lights will be rolled out in Stellenbosch, Western Cape, in the first quarter of 2019, Stellenbosch University announced on Friday.

A similar rollout of the German-developed technology in India along a 3km route with six signalised intersections in Delhi resulted in travel time reducing by 26%. Traffic queues shrank by 37%.

The algorithm will initially cover eight intersections on the busiest stretch of the R44, the main transport artery flowing through Stellenbosch.

The intersections where the algorithm will be implemented in Stellenbosch (supplied)

Dr Johann Andersen, head of the university's Smart Mobility Lab, explained that the project uses a combination of new cameras at intersections and existing electromagnetic loops beneath the road to detect traffic volume and flow.

“This data is then fed into the system, which will automatically adjust the traffic signals to get the traffic moving optimally, based on an algorithm,” Andersen said in a statement by the university.

“What makes this different from existing systems is that human intervention will be minimised."

Also read: I was so fed up with traffic that I bought a motorbike - and the results were surprising

This is also the first time the technology will be used in Africa.

Wilko Mohr, a master’s student who developed the sophisticated algorithm, said the project could easily provide significant results for developing countries across the continent.

“With a problem such as traffic congestion, a 'hard engineering' solution would be to build more roads, but 'soft engineering' could potentially have the same impact, only much faster and more affordably,” Mohr said.

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