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Environmental Traffic Management: For cleaner air in our cities

Traffic around our cities is constantly increasing – and consequently so is air pollution, especially in urban regions. The numbers speak for themselves: particulate matter, nitrogen oxides and ground-level ozone are currently considered the pollutants that affect the quality of our air the most and consequently endanger our health the most. Long-term or acute exposure in particular can lead to health problems of varying severity. For Europe alone, it is estimated that fine particulate matter (PM2.5) in the air reduces life expectancy by about eight months. In addition, there are substances such as benzpyrene and other VOC (volatile organic compounds), which can be a health concern in high concentrations.

According to recent WHO figures, 99% of the world’s population breathes air that exceeds WHO guideline levels. The good news is that 6000 cities in 110 countries are now measuring air quality levels and are looking into ways to take action. One area they are taking a closer look at is road traffic. After all, cars and other vehicles emit a large share of these pollutants. What can cities do about it? They can, for example, orchestrate traffic based on current environmental conditions. And that’s exactly what Environmental Traffic Management can do. Let’s take a closer look!

Air pollution and road traffic

Globally, road traffic is responsible for an estimated one-quarter of ambient particulate matter (PM) in urban areas. With increasingly stringent standards for the PM content of exhaust emissions, non-exhaust emissions are rapidly becoming the dominant source of PM from road traffic and are expected to account for the vast majority of all PM from road traffic as early as 2035.

According to the European Environment Agency (EEA), the road transport sector was the main source of nitrogen oxides (NOx) emissions in 2020, accounting for 37% of total emissions. From 2014 to 2020, just under two-thirds of all reported exceedances of air quality standards were related to dense traffic in urban centers and proximity to major roads, mainly due to emissions of NOx.

The pollutants are produced not only during the combustion process in car engines, but in the case of PM, also through the friction and wear of brakes and tires, making both combustion and electric cars sources of PM. This inhalable dust settles particularly in the lungs and can promote inflammation and disease.

Smog as far as the eye can see.

Extreme examples are the air pollution in the mega-metropolises in Asia and India. High alarms are regularly sounded in these cities, and residents are urged to protect themselves by wearing masks. It can even lead to school closures and restrictions in industrial activity, as pollution is too high for outdoor life.

A solution is needed!

At Yunex Traffic, we constantly pursue the goal of using our digital and smart solutions to regulate traffic control in and around our cities in a way that sustainably reduces air pollution.

And this is what it looks like in practice!

Environmental Traffic Management is proven to reduce air pollution.

Through our intelligent traffic systems, we can influence the traffic situation and thus influence and reduce air pollution in our cities. One of these is our cloud-based solution, Environmental Traffic Management (ETM), which lets us target, fine-tune and optimize traffic flow. It considers the known interrelationships between traffic and air pollution, and is based on five main building blocks:

  • real-time traffic and environmental monitoring,
  • smart detection of traffic anomalies,
  • multimodal traffic information,
  • traffic and air pollution forecasting
  • dynamic traffic strategies that reduce pollution hotspots.

By combining these building blocks, ETM allows to orchestrate traffic in a way that reduces congestion and thereby emissions.

In addition to traffic management, ETM can go a step further: by integrating multimodal information such as real-time public transport and shared mode information (car sharing, bike sharing, etc.), the system can provide travelers with mode and route alternatives at any point during their trip. A mobile application, a web portal and dynamic monitors help users to decide on their optimal trip, its duration, CO2 footprint and environmental impact. The “Sauber Mobil” in Würzburg is a great example for that.

The focus is not only choosing the optimal mode of transport, because even if the journey has already started, traffic management tools can help minimize the negative impacts of trips in the medium and short term. This means, among other things, a combination of efficient route navigation in real time, the resulting reduction in travel time, and at the same time a significant reduction in individual fuel consumption.

Tailor-made – for each individual scenario

Every city and its surrounding area are unique and have different geographical characteristics. And ETM’s solutions are just as unique.

Based on the technological infrastructure and the available data resources, we design tailor-made solutions to meet the challenges of cities and metropolitan areas. ETM systems are able to integrate traffic control, air quality monitors, multimodal traffic data, weather information with the city’s traffic management center (TMC), its IOT devices (such as dynamic traffic signs), and web services (such as apps, social media feeds, and websites). The result is a transparent view of the traffic and environmental situation for all users, integrated multimodal alternatives, route and speed recommendations for drivers to avoid congestion, and the optimization of traffic flow, especially at pollution hotspots. Smooth and balanced traffic flow means cleaner air for all.

Study confirms reduction in local air pollution

ETM has already proven its effectiveness in reducing air pollutant levels through active traffic control. A study by the German Federal Highway Research Institute (BASt) concluded that ETM systems are capable of reducing the concentration of pollutants at hotspots by up to 22.4% of PM2.5, 7.1% of PM10, 17.3% of NO2, and 15.2% of CO2.

Wiesbaden as a model project

Our system for environmentally sensitive traffic management is an important approach to combat poor air quality in our cities. Although a downward trend in pollutant emissions due to stricter regulations is welcome, a significant portion of the population is still exposed to excessive pollutant concentrations that exceed the air quality standards constantly being revised by the EU and World Health Organization (WHO).

Our project in Wiesbaden proves that things can be done differently. As part of the “Digitization of Traffic” (DIGI-V) project, the city is aiming to reduce its traffic-related nitrogen oxide emissions in all traffic areas. Thanks to artificial intelligence, data analytics, traffic flow simulation and the linking of traffic and environmental data, traffic can be managed in such a way that vehicles are less likely to be stuck in traffic jams, resulting in less combustion in engines and the emission of pollutants.

The DIGI-V project for improving air quality and reducing nitrogen oxides was funded by the BMVI with 15 million euros.

Improve the air quality in your city too!

ETM has proven that reducing traffic emissions through environmentally sensitive traffic management is possible. It now needs to be implemented in as many cities as possible. Contact us and let’s improve the air quality in your city together.