Road safety is under a close scrutiny in many countries and cities around the world. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration estimated that almost 43,000 people died in motor vehicle crashes on U.S. roadways in 2022 — about the same number as 2021, but traffic fatalities increased by 10% from 2020 to 2021, and this is the largest year-to-year percentage increase since the agency started collecting data in 1975.
In Switzerland, the federal agency USTRA reported 241 fatalities and over 4 thousand severe casualties last year, with a relevant increase of accidents among car and e-bike drivers. In the UK, over 1,500 young drivers are killed or injured every year, so the government is in talks to ban new drivers under the age of 25 from carrying passengers in the car for the first six to twelve months of driving. At the same time, the Department for Transport confirmed a £47.5 million investment to enhance the safety of some of the most high-risk roads in England and support local councils in improving signage and making safer pedestrian crossings, bike lanes, junctions, and roundabouts.
As traffic volumes increase and the mix of circulating vehicles changes, managing road networks has become more challenging for city managers. Many cities have traffic signal control systems in place, but in most cases they are not designed to manage junctions and intersections dynamically or to dialogue with connected cars or vehicle-to-everything (V2X) systems.
Smart technologies can make the difference by enabling a more accurate collection of data from critical junctions and road intersections, and making them available for quicker and more effective decisions for adaptive junction and traffic management.
Smart junction solutions should feature three core elements: smart devices to capture vehicle and pedestrian movements (motion sensors, vehicle counters, IP cameras, Automatic Number Plate Recognition systems, and more); a robust and interoperable wireless network to collect and securely transmit data; a user-friendly central management software to allow efficient junction monitoring and management. AI-based algorithms can be beneficial by aggregating real-time information from various field sources and providing actionable predictions for data-driven decisions.
The immediate benefits of smart junction management relate to enhanced urban traffic management and improved road safety. But smart junctions can add value to the city experience by supporting medium- and long-term mobility and urban planning, reducing air and noise pollution, contributing to sustainable and climate friendly communities.