By autumn next year, there might finally be a reason to visit Milton Keynes: traffic lights controlled by AI. That's right; if everything goes to plan, Milton Keynes will become the first town in the UK that will attempt to ease congestion by using artificial intelligence.
Vivacity Labs will be installing cameras into Milton Keynes' 2,500 traffic lights beginning this September and hopes to have them working by next year, reports The Telegraph. This will allow AI to change the lights as to limit congestion as much as possible. It will also be able to guide pedestrians, cyclists and emergency vehicles and priotorize where needed, which should lead to safer and better roads and streets.
Milton Keynes was a planned "new town," so the roads were developed for cars to drive on, unlike a lot of other towns or cities in the UK. Even so, Milton Keynes has seen an explosion in growth over the last 30 years, leading to a congested, busy town center. Vivacity hopes that this new system will go at least some way to fixing this. It will cover 50 square miles and have cameras at all major junctions and car parks to ease bottlenecks. Together with the Milton Keynes Council, the company has raised £1.6m from Downing Ventures and a further £1.7m from Innovate UK, which will be used to deploy this technology all over the town.
Vivacity hopes that, in time, these traffic lights will be able to communicate with autonomous vehicles directly, using the same communication standards, such as technology Savari is pioneering, CV2X. That means cars could receive a warning that there'll be congestion in an area ahead of times and could then work together cooperatively to find different routes, alleviating the congestion before it's even happened. (See Savari Wants to Get 5G Into Connected Cars.)
All this may well make Milton Keynes an emerging smart town/city, maybe even before London. That said, London does have "smart" traffic lights, named SCOOT (Split Cycle Offset Optimisation Technique) live in some areas, and has trialed traffic lights that adapt to emergencies and other such occurrences. Milton Keynes is also the testing hub for many self-driving cars, so it makes sense that it's getting AI-controlled traffic lights as well.