In the not-too-distant future, cyclists who are struggling their way through a downpour as they traverse Copenhagen’s streets will get some help from the smartphone in their pocket. Buses will be given longer green lights that can cut travel time by as much as 30 percent and traffic systems will help clear out mass crowds from football games and concerts much faster than they do today.
Copenhagen City Council has approved spending 60 million kroner ($9.1 million) to implement intelligent transport systems (ITS) in the capital that will control traffic digitally and adapt to weather and real-time traffic conditions.
Copenhageners’ smartphones will relay anonymous information to wireless sensors along the city’s streets, allowing traffic lights to adapt to the number of pedestrians, cyclists and motorists using the roads at any given time. Traffic signals will also communicate directly with city buses, giving them longer green lights when they are behind schedule or jam-packed with passengers.
“Put simply, these systems will ensure traffic that flows better so that as many people as possible will save time in the greenest possible way,” Morten Kabell, Copenhagen’s deputy mayor for technical affairs, told Politiken.
ITS has already been tested in parts of Copenhagen and a study of bus traffic in Valby showed that ITS has cut travel time by as much as 30 percent on some routes.
The data systems will also be able to relay information about mass crowds leaving sporting events and concerts, resulting in extra green lights and a faster relief to congestion.
But while all of that data may make live easier for commuters, it also presents its own set of problems.
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“When you receive so much data it raises the question of whether it will be sold or passed on in some other way. Up until now we have been anonymizing data, but if Google develops future systems will they then own it? This is one of the many questions that will require a political position,” Technical University of Denmark professor Per Høeg told Politiken.
Copenhagen will implement intelligent transport systems in the city centre as a start and if that goes well, the concept may be extended throughout the entire municipality for an additional 250 million kroner.