Google to trial AI in UK traffic light systems to reduce stop-and-go emissions

10 October 2023, 14:34

Traffic in Manchester's Portland Street
Night shot of a busy, vibrant, energetic Portland Street in Manchester, featuring traffic and neon lights. Picture: PA

The technology giant announced the UK launch of its Project Green Light on Tuesday.

Google is trialling artificial intelligence (AI) in Manchester’s traffic light system to reduce stop-and-go emissions and improve the flow of vehicles.

The technology giant announced the UK launch of its Project Green Light on Tuesday, working alongside Transport for Great Manchester (TfGM) to run the pilot.

It coincides with Google hosting a major sustainability event in Brussels, where the firm will outline the innovations it has been working on across high-emission industries like transport and energy, including how it is using AI for climate solutions.

The company said it found that half of emissions at traffic intersections come from vehicles stopping and starting.

Traffic in Manchester's Deansgate
Manchester, the first UK city to host the pilot, has around 2,400 traffic signals and sees millions of journeys each week.(Alamy/PA)

To help reduce these emissions, Google’s Green Light research initiative uses AI as well as driving trends from Google Maps to model traffic patterns and make recommendations for making the existing traffic light plans more efficient.

Google said city engineers can implement these plans in as little as five minutes using existing infrastructure.

The Green Light programme is live at 70 junctions across 12 cities, including Haifa in Israel, Rio de Janeiro in Brazil and Bangalore in India.

Early data from those cities indicate a potential for up to 30% reduction in stops and up to 10% reduction in emissions at junctions, Google said.

Manchester, the first UK city to host the pilot, has around 2,400 traffic signals and sees millions of journeys each week.

Debbie Weinstein, Google UK managing director and vice president, said: “AI is the most profound technology that we’re working on today, with the potential to boost the UK’s productivity and support net zero ambitions.

“That’s why we’re excited to be partnering with Transport for Greater Manchester to pilot Project Green Light here in the UK.

“Already, this early stage AI-powered tool uses existing infrastructure to provide city planners with a cost-effective and efficient way to improve traffic flow, reduce stop-and-go traffic and cut emissions.

“We look forward to partnering with more organisations across the country to help drive innovative solutions that unlock the benefits of AI.”

David Atkin, TfGM’s analysis and reporting manager, said Greater Manchester’s road network is “complex”, adding that the needs of motorists, cyclists, pedestrians and public transport users need to be balanced.

“With traffic levels now at or beyond pre-pandemic levels, we are working really hard to tackle congestion and are delighted to be amongst the first areas in the world – and the first in the UK – to work with Google on the innovative Green Light initiative,” he said.

“The pilot provided valuable insights and teams from both Green Light and TfGM brought expertise and ideas to the table to improve journeys by up to 18% and reduce emissions.

“Our aim is to make the network run as efficiently as possible and we look forward to seeing how we can use what we’ve learnt from this pilot to improve journey times for all road users.”

By Press Association

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