Electronic road alerts on way

DUBAI — The implementation of the Freeway and Local Co-ordinated Operations Network (Falcon) programme and the Traveller Information Services, two key components of Dubai’s Intelligent Transportation Systems (ITS) is on track and will be completed by January next year.

By Zaigham Ali Mirza

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Published: Sun 1 May 2005, 10:52 AM

Last updated: Thu 2 Apr 2015, 8:23 PM

Mattar Al Tayer, Assistant Director-General for Roads and General Projects (now the Deputy Director-General) at Dubai Municipality, told Khaleej Times that there is more to the programme than reaching information and traffic signal operations.

According to him it will simultaneously support real-time traffic operations, incident management, and traveller information services, through a network of electronic message boards, Internet and wireless services, public kiosks and in-vehicle information.

The project, which began last year, is one of a number of solutions the civic body has come up with to tackle the rising congestion on the emirate’s road network. Dubai’s population has experienced an almost two-fold increase in the past decade, from 700,000 in 1995 to approximately 1.3 million last year, as a direct result of economic development that is attracting businesses from around the world.

The ITS Dubai, the first such project in the region, is a sophisticated project that “will enable the municipality to manage its road network more efficiently by detecting in real-time what happens on the network, ensuring that accident spots can be verified quickly, and being in a position to respond to road accidents,” Al Tayer said.

According to him the Falcon programme, which incorporates real-time, integrated traffic management and traveller information services, will primarily focus on some of the more important routes such as Shaikh Zayed Road and the Al Ittihad Road, with the three crossings over Dubai Creek being the major links within the programme, in its initial phase.

The other two major links within Falcon will be the upcoming Ras Al Khor bridge (fourth crossing) and the Airport Tunnel, for which plans for installation of components has already been drawn.

The project would enable the municipality to know of most of the incidents by collection of real-time traffic flow information via 63 freeway monitoring stations — point detection using radar sensors and wide-area detection using video image processing, which will be installed particularly along bridges, within tunnels, and at key interchanges, Al Tayer said. He added that stations will be non-pavement intrusive, for easy maintenance and relocation.

The verification process for confirming if incidents have actually happened, will be done by utilising 20 new colour digital cameras, which will be in addition to the existing 24. “As soon as an incident is detected and verified, the new software will search through the response planning bank and will recommend to the operator the best way to deal with the incident,” Al Tayer explained.

Different technologies will be utilised by the programme to reach the necessary information to motorists, Al Tayer said. Some 30 LED-based dynamic message signs (DMS) located upstream of decision points are to be installed and would use graphical information with concise English and Arabic text.

“A total of 300 real-time lane-use control signals and speed control signals will be installed along critical segments and bridges and tunnel approaches. The linking of this massive traffic management system will be accomplished through a fibre-optics network of 42kms,” Al Tayer said.

“Real-time wireless messaging, including data through SMS alerts - through which subscribers receive information on accidents and major congestions, and data through the Wireless Application Protocol (WAP) service, would be utilised to provide travel time and congestion information via text menus and displays,” he said adding that services will be provided to compatible mobile phones in partnership with Etisalat.

Other plans include using Internet web pages, with map-based information showing travel times and congestion information along with incident locations and lane closures, plus video images from municipality’s cameras. There would also be dynamic navigation for those motorists who purchase vehicles with the equipment inbuilt. In this regard, Al Tayer pointed out that the municipality has already prepared the navigation CD.

In addition, traveller information kiosks using an interface similar to the web page on a touch-sensitive screen, located in shopping malls and other public areas will enable motorists to access critical information on local traffic conditions.

Describing the ITS project as “one component of a comprehensive set of solutions” that are designed to ease congestion and enhance safety, Al Tayer said that traffic simulation studies on the project indicate drop of 15 per cent in road accidents as well as considerable reduction in traffic congestion.

What’s in it for motorists?

The system will inform motorists of jams, and allow them to take educated decisions on alternate routes.

The real-time nature of the system enables it to divert traffic safely away from blocked lanes or accident sites (lanes).

The system will also be able to automatically reduce speed limits on different roads depending on accidents or congestion.

It will implement pre-approved and tested plans jointly with Police Department and Civil Defence to guarantee reaching accident site, and hospitals in the shortest possible time. The dynamic system would also support emergency operations involving vehicles with signal priority (civil defence, ambulance).

The system will be capable of reducing congestion during special events by automatically activating stored Traffic Management Plans designed specifically for such events.

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