As Kuching grows in size, its population expands as well. This means the roads are being shared by more drivers, motorists, buses and pedestrians who need to travel.
Building new roads to accommodate all these new users isn’t always feasible and is often expensive, which is why the implementation of smart city technology can ease the traffic congestion.
Easing traffic congestion in densely populated areas is crucial to the people for better quality of life. Smart city technology can also reduce urban air pollution, alongside better traffic flow during peak hours.
Kuching city’s decision to implement smart traffic lights is part of their Smart City Kuching initiative, which started in 2017.
As of March this year, 55 out of 146 traffic lights in Kuching have been upgraded to the SMART Traffic Light System to provide safe and efficient travel for vehicles and pedestrians.
Smart traffic lights differ from traditional traffic lights, in that they don’t only change signals at predetermined times but instead use information acquired to change signals through calculated fairness.
The smart traffic light system is connected to a computer in a central traffic control room which uses cameras and sensors to understand what’s happening on the roads and transmit real-time data to regulate traffic flow accordingly.
The system is fitted with artificial intelligence to detect the concentration of vehicles at different junctions and intersections. In turn, the lights can respond accordingly.
Traffic control centres compile and use the information fed to them from the smart traffic lights to better the flow of traffic.
They are also used to obtain information on unplanned events that occur, planned events that will have an impact on traffic conditions (major cultural or sporting events) and planned roadworks on the network.
Besides monitoring the roads, it can also continuously monitor the weather conditions which is then fed to the meteorology department to assist in weather forecasting.
According to Transport Minister Datuk Lee Kim Shin, the implementation of smart traffic lights in Kuching have managed to reduce travel time by up to 48% during peak traffic. On average, a 20 minute trip could now only take 10 minutes.
This data was taken from a pilot study that used junctions at Jalan Green, Jalan Tun Razak, Jalan Batu Kawa, Jalan Rock and Jalan Song. These junctions see heavy traffic flow on a daily basis.
The traffic control centre will eventually manage traffic in the entire Kuching metropolitan area for improved traffic flow and better travel times.