Beating traffic jams with intelligent video technology

New Zealand Security Magazine, April-May 2019

Embraer KC-390
Hikvision ANPR

Traffic congestion in cities is a universal problem. Hikvision shows how the latest-generation video technology is helping authorities keep roads flowing and drivers accountable so we can all get from A to B quicker.

Globally, urban road networks are already saturated. This causes long delays for drivers, increasing frustration and reducing productivity. It also creates public health risks due to poor air quality. Together, the effects of excessive traffic negatively impact city dwellers’ quality of life and the sustainability of their cities. 

According to one study from INRIX, a leading provider of transport insights, Los Angeles commuters spent over 100 hours a year in traffic jams in 2017 – more than any other city in the world. Additionally, London traffic jams cost drivers the equivalent of £2,430 (USD$3,135) each, equal to more than £9.5 billion (USD$12.3 billion) across the city as a whole. 

A major headache for city authorities

Needless to say, traffic becomes a headache for city administrators, particularly in cities where the construction of modern roads is not keeping pace with increased vehicle ownership. 

To find long-term solutions, city authorities are looking into the root causes of traffic congestion. In Hong Kong, the city’s Transport Advisory Committee published a report identifying the top-three causes of excessive traffic: (i) too many vehicles on roads; (ii) illegal parking; and (iii) too much road works – factors that all contribute to traffic jams in cities worldwide.  

How technology can help

In many cities, building new road capacity is not an option – either because of available space, disruption to economic activities, or budgetary constraints. In these circumstances, city authorities are beginning to look to smart technologies to make people’s journeys faster and safer.

In the portfolio of available traffic easing technologies, latest-generation video technology is the star. In particular, innovations in Artificial Intelligence (AI) and deep learning have transformed standard video monitoring with features that alert operators about traffic issues in real time. This allows them to take immediate action to keep lanes clear and to keep traffic flowing. 

Next generation video solutions are already helping city authorities to reduce congestion and deliver major time savings for drivers. Three examples are: 

Traffic guidance  

This kind of solution uses smart cameras installed at intersections to monitor and report on real-time traffic flow. It works by constantly observing the flow of traffic lanes, and by counting vehicles within defined areas of the road. Data is then sent to traffic management control centres where operators can see the build-up of traffic across the city. 

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Critically, this citywide view of traffic allows operators to take action in real time to reduce the root causes of congestion, such as misuse of bus/transit lanes or illegal parking. 

In the event of a traffic incident, traffic guidance solutions are also great news for drivers. 

Congestion information is displayed for them at each intersection, helping them predict their arrival time and – if delays are serious or persistent – to choose alternative routes or travel options. 

While video is a critical element of the solution, full integration with third-party systems and algorithms is also needed. In this way, traffic data can be visualised on city maps and transmitted effectively to the control centre, drivers, emergency services, and others. 

Traffic signal control 

Traffic signal control solutions allow traffic lights to be coordinated to keep traffic flowing as freely as possible. They consume traffic data from traffic guidance systems to understand where traffic is building up at an intersection. 

To do this, intelligent traffic cameras count vehicles that cross an intersection as well as detect the length of vehicle queues at an intersection. They simultaneously share the real-time data with the traffic signal system.

Based on this data, traffic lights can be coordinated automatically to even out the traffic flow, giving traffic more or less priority, as needed, by extending or reducing the time available to cross the intersection. This helps to speed up journeys, reduce driver frustration and eliminate the need for manual intervention by traffic police when traffic builds up in a particular direction.  

Hikvision Traffic flow cameras can be used as virtual detection loops that can act to reduce the cost for traffic flow and congestion optimisation. Hikvision has developed ISAPI (IP Surveillance API) with customised firmware to support metadata integration with third-party traffic controllers. 

Metadata that can be abstracted from traffic camera include: lane number, traffic, average Speed, traffic status, lane queue length, headway time, headway distance, lane time occupancy, lane space occupancy.

Traffic enforcement 

In many cases, traffic congestion is caused by illegal or irresponsible road use, such as illegal parking and use of bus lanes. With traffic enforcement video solutions, such as wrong-way driving detection, illegal U-turn and illegal parking detection, these kinds of incidents can be identified in real time, allowing operators in traffic control centres to alert authorities in immediately. This makes it faster to react to incidents and remove obstacles on roads, while also holding drivers accountable. 

As well as helping to reduce traffic congestion, traffic enforcement video solutions can also help to improve public safety. They can be used, for example, to detect drivers who run red lights, speed, or otherwise drive dangerously, and to take action against them. 

Compared to traditional checkpoint speed measurement, Segment Speed Measurement provides higher levels of accuracy. Drivers are unable to avoid these cameras by installing detectors or using stealth coatings.

The trend of traffic enforcement technologies within the Australia and New Zealand markets is a combination of Automatic License Plate recognition (ANPR) function and generic traffic surveillance. Traditional road video monitoring is mainly used post-event, with generally lower efficiency and lower image quality. 

Hikvision uses high resolution, high accuracy ANPR plus DarkFighter technology that can read licence plates from  multiple traffic lanes and record them to a searchable database. License plate listings of vehicles of interest can be loaded into the database, and notifications received when their license plates are recognised.

A better future for congested cities

With urban traffic management now topping the agenda for most city authorities, intelligent video technology is a beacon of hope. By monitoring traffic in real time, these kinds of solutions allow city authorities to take immediate action to ease bottlenecks – reducing driver frustration, reducing lost productivity and improving urban air quality. 

Additionally, real-time incident detection helps to improve overall driving standards, ultimately reducing the number of accidents and saving lives. 

As more and more city authorities begin to see the value of latest-generation video solutions for traffic management, adoption of the technology is accelerating. This is especially the case where cities have been able to implement a suitable regulatory and funding structure to support the implement of these solutions. 

To find out more about Hikvision intelligent traffic management with latest-generation video solutions, AI and deep learning, visit


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