L-R: Hessen Digital Minister Kristina Sinemus and Mayor Thomas Fehling, Source: City of Bad Hersfeld

German city lets AI control traffic lights to make green waves for first responders

German city lets AI control traffic lights to make green waves for first responders

The optimal goal of the project is to ensure that emergency services are able to get to where they need to go in the span of 10 minutes

At the start of August, local authorities in Bad Hersfeld, Germany, announced new funding for a cutting-edge Smart City project for traffic control for first responders. The funding of 2.28 million euros came from the state government of Hessen, through the Starke Heimat Hessen (Strong Homeland Hessen) programme.

The smart project aims to use a host of traffic data that is updated in real-time about the traffic concentration in the city. The data would then help first responders navigate the hectic urban environment to get to emergencies within a 10-minute time frame.

Traffic control and first responders

At first glance, the project seems to not be doing anything more complex than what modern GPS is already capable of, however, a statement by the city sheds some more light on what authorities are trying to implement.

According to the statement, the city’s traffic light system will be integrated with the first responders’ tool and apart from plotting the shortest route, it will be capable of controlling the lights to create green corridors.

This would, no doubt, create bottlenecks throughout the city, but the project’s designers plan to account with the help of a complex AI algorithm that would then manage to restart traffic and fix the jams.

The pilot edition host of the project will be the local fire brigade and during the trial period, experts will evaluate the effectiveness of the tool and whether a central traffic light control system needs to be integrated at all.

Regional cooperation

In recent years, Bad Harsfeld has become a model smart city, integrating innovations into everyday life. This includes a smart lighting system, that can be controlled via an app by citizens. With the system, people can dim or brighten some lights in the city.

According to an official statement, with this investment, the State Government of Hessen hopes to encourage other municipalities to adopt some of Bad Harsfeld’s policies and build up a smart region. This is why all the systems that the city develops to operate the first responders’ traffic tool will be freely available to other municipalities in the area.

This opinion was seconded by Hessen Digital Minister Kristina Sinemus. She was quoted in a press release, saying: “Modern digital technologies can literally help to save lives. Because every minute counts in rescue operations. Hessian municipalities will also benefit from it since busy streets in the city area are not just a problem in Bad Hersfeld."

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