Fleets are being asked to participate in a project which uses artificial intelligence to control traffic lights, in a bid to reduce congestion and air pollution.

The technology has been developed by the University of Huddersfield’s Centre for Autonomous Research and Intelligent Systems, in collaboration with software provider Simplifai Systems. Simplifai creates smart traffic management software, and has recently received patent approval to develop the technology with the university.

AI is at the heart of the technology, which uses a local authority’s traffic data to generate strategies to solve traffic issues and predict traffic flow for one-off events. It can help to alleviate congestion hot spots, and manage traffic to reduce air pollution. It was successfully trialled on Wakefield Road in Huddersfield town centre last summer to manage the flow of traffic after a Muse rock concert, and Simplifai has also been awarded a contract by Hull City Council to develop the technology for its traffic management systems.

Part of the challenge in traffic management now is the uncertainty that hybrid working has introduced.

“Managing networks is more complex than it was five years ago, and what we’re trying to achieve is more complex as well,” said Keith McCabe, transport technology industry carbon ambassador and CEO of Simplifai. “In the past you would simply set up the traffic lights based on an average Tuesday and leave them for the next day; the challenge now is that there is no such thing as an average Tuesday.

“The biggest change was how travel patterns have changed as a result of Covid. People don’t go to work in the same way, people don’t shop the same way as they used to, their leisure activities happen at different times of the day,” said McCabe.

As more autonomous and smart vehicles come onto UK roads, AI-controlled traffic management systems will be able to connect with them directly, which is why fleets are being asked to take part in this project.