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Big data can keep traffic flowing

Real-time data from connected cars will enable transport authorities to make informed decisions to ease congestion, writes Graham Bradley

Graham Bradley
In 2014 London drivers spent an average of 96 hours a year in gridlocked traffic
In 2014 London drivers spent an average of 96 hours a year in gridlocked traffic
Graham Bradley
Graham Bradley


Anyone who has ever experienced the morning rush hour knows just how busy the UK’s roads are. Unfortunately it’s only set to get busier. The Office of National Statistics estimates that the UK population will reach 70 million by 2027 and this rise, combined with a growing UK economy and falling levels of unemployment, will lead to more people commuting into cities by road for work. 

We are already seeing it starting to happen. INRIX’s Urban Mobility Scorecard report, published last year revealed that traffic congestion rose in three-quarters of the UK’s metropolitan areas in 2014. In London drivers spent on average an additional 14 hours sat in gridlock compared with the year before. This meant they were wasting 96 hours, on average, in traffic every year. 

With figures like these, it is clear something needs to be done to help de-congest Britain’s cities, particularly in the capital. Transport for London (TfL) realises this and is taking necessary action, investing heavily in plans to improve and modernise the city’s transport network. 

Building an accurate picture

Improving infrastructure comes at a cost and it can only go so far. Transport authorities, need to think ‘smart’ and seriously consider additional sustainable solutions to remedy the urban mobility problem. This is where big data can play an important role.

Smart solutions, employing real-time traffic data derived from connected devices, are already being considered by governments as the long-term answer to the congestion problem. It is a future-proof answer. Research firm Gartner has predicted a quarter-of-a-billion connected cars will be on the roads by 2020. By gathering the billions of data points from connected cars every day, we can start to build a more accurate picture of what is happening on the roads at any given time.

Taking pre-emptive action

Armed with data from connected cars, transport authorities are then able to detect extraordinary traffic queues faster, issue earlier warnings of congestion and make informed decisions more quickly to resolve these issues before they grow. 

Drivers, too, can have access to real-time information about congestion hotspots and the re-routing options available to them. 

Solving the congestion problem relies on our ability to link the connected car to smart cities applications to harness the power of real-time insight and predictive analytics. In this way we can build robust intelligence into Britain’s transportation networks. There can be little doubt that big data is crucial to the future of driving. Embracing it will significantly improve the way people travel to and around the UK’s cities. 

Graham Bradley is senior director & UK country manager at INRIX

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