The average British driver spent 124 hours stuck in gridlock last year, according to research carried out by INRIX and the Centre for Economics and Business Research (Cebr). And the congestion problem is only set to get worse as populations grow.
The study revealed that the amount of time people waste in traffic jams could rise to 136 hours in 2030 – costing the UK economy a staggering £307 billion.
With the UK population predicted to grow by 12 per cent in 2030, solving the congestion problem and improving urban mobility is high up on the list of priorities.
Of course, the government has already been looking into solutions. Plans to widen and build more roads in the UK were reported towards the end of 2014 and earlier this year, the UK government announced it would invest £11 billion into the development of new “expressways”.
The creation of 400 miles of “smart motorways” will see the upgrade of 18 existing routes with the introduction of with variable speed limits and the opening of the hard shoulder as a fourth lane at peak times. All of these xould help to ease congestion in the short-term but it won’t solve the problem alone.
Smarter solutions that employ real-time traffic data derived from connected devices are, therefore, increasingly being considered by governments as the long term answer to the congestion problem. And with the number of connected cars set to proliferate over the coming years, it is also a future proof solution.
By combining GPS data from connected cars with GPS data from personal navigation devices, mobile apps and fleet vehicles, for example, transport agencies can be provided with accurate real-time insights about the situation on the roads that was previously unavailable to them. This real-time information, then, enables agencies to better monitor and manage traffic.
This is something Denmark has come to realise. In fact, it was announced last week that Denmark has become the first country in the world to rely on GPS probe data, provided by INRIX, to monitor traffic and better manage congestion across the country’s entire road network.
This move means that the country’s transport agency, the Danish Road Directorate, now has a more accurate, and more immediate, picture into what’s happening on the roads. Consequently, they are able to detect extraordinary traffic queues faster, issue earlier warnings of congestion and effectively make informed decisions more quickly to resolve these issues before they grow. Real-time traffic information can also provide more timely information to drivers, alerting them to congestion hot spots and providing re-routing options in good time.
If we want to avoid the ominous prospect of being sat in traffic for 18 days of the year, we need smart, innovative solutions in addition to the building of more roads and infrastructure. You only just have to look at the opportunities big data driven solutions offer to see how they could revolutionise interurban mobility and transportation in cities. We are now at the tipping point of transport authorities embracing this technology to enable them to have more accurate insights and act faster in terms of combating issues on the road.
The successful use of real-time traffic data across Denmark will demonstrate to other public sector bodies as to how technologically lead innovation can improve urban mobility. Smarter, data-based solutions will have a significant impact on congestion in the longer-term and we need to keep this momentum going today if we are to avoid the grid-locks of tomorrow.
Graham Bradley is UK country manager at INRIX