What to do about traffic jams?
We have seen great improvements in incident detection and speed of response and recovery, but the next big improvement in reducing traffic jams will be through better use of data.
In INRIX we are fortunate enough to have access to vast amounts of traffic data, which is used by our INRIX Research team to identify trends, insights and impacts of road congestion.
One recent study by INRIX Research, which was covered extensively in the UK press by the likes of BBC News and The Times, revealed that there were 1.35 million traffic jams in the past year on the UK's major roads, costing drivers an estimated £9 billion. The causes of the five worst traffic jams ranged from fuel spills to broken down lorries.
November 2016 was the worst month in terms of volume with over 169,000 traffic jams on the UK's major roads - 50% worse than average. However, traffic jams across the month of April proved the most severe, with the research revealing length of delays were 24% worse than average. The year's worst traffic jam occurred on 4th August 2017 on the M5 Northbound by Junction 20. Traffic tailed back 35 miles at the peak, and the jam lasted 15 hours.
So, whilst queuing is considered a national pastime for many of us Brits, nothing is more frustrating than sitting in traffic. Jams can be caused by all kinds of road incidents but data from the INRIX Incident Platform shows that fuel spillages, emergency repairs and broken down lorries contributed to the worst congestion over the past year.
This leads to question what can be done?
Much has already been accomplished and we have seen great improvements in incident detection and speed of response and recovery, however this has often been offset by the sheer increase in the volume of traffic.
We believe the next big improvement in reducing traffic jams will be through better use of data.
Today, detailed high-quality information and data is being collected for each road incident, such as the location, the cause, how quickly congestion built up, which vehicle types were involved, weather conditions, how it is affecting surrounding roads, when the incident was cleared and how long it took for the road to return to normal.
This rich dataset is continually being enhanced with increasing numbers of vehicles and connected devices like smartphones collecting more types of data more often.
One challenge is what to do with all this information and how to make sense of it. This could lead to better understanding on different types of incidents, their impact and which response measures minimises disruption and delays.
Another challenge is that technology is moving at such a pace that by the time a technology system has been specified and been procured it is out of date.
One solution to both of these problems is to take an agile approach; buying in data-as-a-service that can be easily analysed and use cloud-based analytics tools to quickly find the nuggets of value needed to make a difference.
One thing is for sure, increasingly we will have access to more and more valuable data. However, what is uncertain is whether this data will be used to fulfil is potential in supporting better road journeys.
Adrian Ulisse is INRIX's Director of Sales & Business Development - Public Sector. He will be running a demo of the INRIX Roadway Analytics on demand traffic tools in the Dynniq Dome from 09.40-10.15 on 8 November. INRIX is a sponsor of the Intelligent Infrastructure Hub and the Highways UK event app.