Region welcomes UK’s first 5G connected road sensor network targeting congestion

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Transport bosses are harnessing the power of 5G technology to cut traffic congestion on some of the West Midlands busiest roads.

A congestion busting network of 5G sensors will relay live traffic information to the regional control centre to enable swift action to be taken as queues build up – perhaps diverting buses, implementing diversions and issuing instant warnings to motorists.

The traffic data will also be used to spot traffic trends and help plan future transport development.

West Midlands 5G (WM5G) and Transport for West Midlands (TfWM) have joined forces to work on the project to demonstrate how 5G technology can make a major impact on our road network.

The project centres around the Key Route Network, a set of A and B roads equivalent to 7% of the available network but which carry over half of all traffic within the region.

In its first phase, the project aims to capture a more granular picture of traffic flow through the deployment of various of 5G enabled sensors, radar and cameras across the key route network.

TfWM, which is part of the West Midlands Combined Authority (WMCA) has been working with partners such as WSP, Siemens, Earthsense and Vodafone in delivering the project.

Mayor of the West Midlands Andy Street, who chairs the WMCA, said: “This sensor network is yet another example of how the West Midlands is at the forefront of 5G technology and the cutting edge of transport innovation. 5G is far more than just quicker streaming of movies, and this works shows the difference it will make to people’s everyday lives across the region.

“The Road Sensor Network project will form a key part of planning and developing our future transport network, allowing us access to data that would otherwise have not been possible without 5G. Projects like this show how critical it was we got ahead of the game and won the right to be the UK’s first regional 5G testbed back in 2018.

“The Road Sensor Network project will help make our roads safer and more efficient, this will give the West Midlands a critical advantage when considered for future development and investments.”

To date the region has relied on manual surveys of traffic flows using pneumatic tubes or limited coverage of CCTV and Automatic Number Plate Recognition (ANPR) cameras to gauge the number of vehicles and journeys on the region’s roads.

Chris Holmes, transport programme director for WM5G said: “The Road Sensor Network project is a great example of how deliberate application of connected technologies can provide the insights necessary to solve some of our biggest transport problems.

“The anonymised, GDPR compliant information captured during the project will be sufficient to start improving the flow of traffic across the West Midlands’ Key Route Network and improve access to the region. Better connected roads will ultimately support local financial growth as it will be quicker and easier to travel for business, leisure, or academia.”

The next stage of the £5.8m Road Sensor Network Project will see around 280 sensors provided by Vivacity and Vaisala deployed across the seven constituent authorities of the West Midlands Combined Authority area, before its conclusion in March 2022.