The Best Smart Traffic Technology
Each company has different results, and each city has different needs. The technology isn’t cheap but with the right choice, it pays for itself. Choose carefully.
Adaptive Signal Control Technology (ASCT) is a game-changer. In short, the ASCT are systems that automatically modify signal timing and control the flow of vehicles based on the actual situation on the roads. They are an amazing technology that heavily reduces travel times, wait times, fuel consumption, emissions, and accidents, thus saving lives, time, and money. We will focus here on specific vendors, but if you would like to learn more about this technology, look at our article Smart Traffic Lights.
The number of vendors is ever-growing, but each one is different, and so are the specific needs of each city. We will look at the three most widespread companies across the U.S. and one that’s brand new on the market. My goal is to help you decide.
Though the technology is amazing and mostly very successful, there is a danger of losing money by choosing the wrong vendor. Without further ado, let’s look at the most established vendors as well as the new kid on the block.
The Scoot is an ASCT vendor developed by Siemens. It automatically responds to changes in traffic based on street detectors built into the road.
In 2016, the Seattle Department of Transportation (SDOT) decided to install a smart traffic system in their city. They ran a survey to evaluate the most developed and employed ASCT systems. The SDOT ended up selecting Scoot as the best vendor. After installing the Scoot system on eight intersections on both the Westbound and Eastbound Mercer Corridor, they achieved significant results:
The average travel time along the corridor during peak hours dropped by 21%.
In January 2017, the International Journal of Latest Engineering and Management Research (IJLEMR) called Scoot, the ‘world leader in Urban Traffic Control.’ Currently, Scoot operates in 350 towns and cities across the world.
Scats is another adaptive traffic control system with a long history and strong global presence. They are already installed at more than 55,000 intersections across 187 cities in 28 countries worldwide. They pride themselves on improving the safety of over 1 billion people daily. On average, they should reduce travel times by 28%, vehicle stops by 25%, fuel consumption by 12%, and emissions by 15%.
InSync, founded in 2005, is one of the newer smart traffic systems, but it is already the go-to ASCT for most states. If you were to travel from Philadelphia to Los Angeles, it would be InSync improving your trip through most of the major cities along the way. The application of their technology should be a plug-and-play working with your preexisting traffic controllers.
On their website, InSync claims an abundance of benefits, including having the least amount of downtime of all systems. Furthermore, their system should require the least amount of human intervention and staff time. The crashes are reduced by 15%-30%, emissions and fuel consumption by 34%, delay by 73%, and vehicle stops by 80%.
Of course, everybody can make any claims, but that doesn’t mean they are true. Interested in their impressive numbers, I had a call with their president and CEO, Reggie Chandra, Ph.D., P.E.
When I asked him what makes them stand out, he answered without hesitation, ‘real-time.’ Their site claims that they are the only real-time adaptive traffic system on the market. It means that their system doesn’t rely on fixed cycles, but makes adjustments in real-time, every second.
Mr. Chandra also claimed with confidence that they have ‘40% better results than anything anybody can do with traffic signals.’
As it turns out, this fully correlates with the findings of Matt Sellinger’s and Luke Schmidt’s study: Adaptive Traffic Control Systems in the United States, Updated Summary and Comparison.
InSync not only met cities’ expectations on all points but exceeded them on most. The study branded them a winner in all categories and found them to have ’’the highest operational benefits by a large margin’’.
Another fantastic feature that both the 2010 comparison and Mr. Chandra highlighted is that they have the lowest amount of downtime. Furthermore, if there is a loss of communication between intersections, they automatically go to predetermined offsets and continue working.
The comparison found the InSync to have the lowest offline time and maintenance requirements. When I asked Mr. Chandra about their current maintenance requirements and costs, he looked surprised. ‘What maintenance? There is no maintenance.’ Their system is all digital and, in fact, is patented by them. Mr. Chandra continued to point out that it’s precisely due to digital nature that they are 40% better than others. Another exciting feature he mentioned is that they have seamless integration with other existing systems, and they can work with what you already have, thus reducing your costs.
Last October, the Regional Transporation Commission (RTC) of Southern Nevada launched an ASCT test on Eastern Avenue in Las Vegas. They considered all vendors and chose InSync for their credible success in other states and no need for additional infrastructure and other costly improvements.
They achieved excellent results in increased speed, reduced travel time, and so on. Furthermore, they reduced crashes by 34%, and their total savings in wasted time and fuel were $10,347,360 per round trip per day. The test ran from October 2020 to February 2021. I have to point out that this was during Covid with a heavy drop in transportation. If this was done pre or post-Covid, I imagine the results would be even greater.
When Mr. Chandra mentioned the savings on emissions, he said that their system saves 1 ton of CO2 per day. Instead, he could go with the highest number they achieved. If he went with the table, he could mention the Northbound’s saving of 1,168 tons per year, making for 3.2 tons per day. It gave me a sense of honesty and added value to everything he said.
Mr. Chandra was very open about their average cost, 30-35k pre intersection, and added that it could pay for itself in 32 days. The 2010 comparison found InSync to have the lowest price of all systems. The survey ended by asking cities’ traffic engineers, ’Knowing what you know now, would you have installed the same system if you had the opportunity to do it all again?’ For InSync, 100% said yes.
NoTraffic, an Israel-based company, is the new kid on the block. For the NY Times article, NoTraffic’s vice president, Tom Cooper, indicated that their price could be up to 70% lower than their competitors. They expect to be installed in over 45 cities across the U.S. by the end of 2021. It sounds great, but I remain skeptical. Again, anybody can make any claims, but at the time being, there is no evidence for theirs. I hope they are true, but it’s extremely ambitious, and they have yet to prove themselves.
So which one?
Don’t jump in headfirst. I cannot stress this enough; every city is different, and so are their needs and priorities. Furthermore, no two ASCT systems are the same. Before you even start looking for one, carefully identify your city’s traffic needs.
- What issues are you facing? (accidents, pollution, congestion, unnecessary stops, faulty traffic system, etc.)
- What is the cause of the issue? Can smarter traffic technology solve it?
- Consider the hardware and software already installed. Could it be implemented within the new system?
- How much money, time, and workforce can you afford to spare?
- Don’t forget to include maintenance and staff training in the budget.
Only then, look for a vendor that is the best fit for you. I am emphasizing this as there are cities that got burned by choosing the wrong vendor. As a result, they understandably become warier, and it might take a long time before they decide to invest again into something that can be beneficial on so many levels.
I find the NoTraffic’s possibility of 70% lower costs than others quite attractive, but I will believe it when I see it. They are new on the U.S. market, and they have yet to prove themselves. They might be the next best thing, and they might not. Their actual cost remains to be seen as well as their performance.
As you’ve probably figured out, I feel most inclined towards InSync. The fact is that none of our content is sponsored by third parties as our blog is under the Simplicity app. The simple reason for the increased attention is that I am the most impressed with their results. InSync is very transparent with their data, there is plenty of research available and they responded to comment. Also, when you are making your decision, it certainly helps that they are widespread across the whole country, and there are countless cities you can turn to in regards to their experience with InSync.
Nevertheless, don’t do something just because your neighbor does it or because I thought it’s the best choice. Don’t fall for empty promises. Have your traffic engineers consider your city’s specific needs first and only afterward look for the ideal vendor for you. I am sure there is a perfect fit for everybody. The ASCT is amazing, and one day we will see it everywhere. The sooner, the better for everybody.
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