Traffic Flow Management using EarthSense Air Quality Data Services

Managing traffic flow and vehicle emissions by integrating air quality data into existing traffic management systems.

The impact of air pollution on human health is an area of growing understanding. Fear of using public transport during the current global Covid-19 pandemic will likely increase the number of vehicles on the road paired with continued pressure from governments and community action groups, it’s more imperative than ever to try and manage the levels of toxic pollutants emitted from vehicles.

Introducing Intelligent Transport Systems and Traffic Management Systems that react to air quality levels could be the facilitating factor. This is an area that air quality specialist, EarthSense has been working on for some time and initially explored as part of project ACCRA (Autonomous and Connected Vehicles for CleaneR Air) back in 2017 along with partners, Cenex, Tevva, Dynniq, Leeds City Council and Transport Systems Catapult.

Today, with the aid of continued developments to data services and international growth, EarthSense are working alongside Aimsun, Siemens and Oxfordshire County Council on the UK’s first potential zero-emission zone achieved through traffic management.

The project titled, Network Emissions/Vehicle Flow Management Adjustment (NEVFMA) is an initiative funded by Highways England and sees the deployment of 18 Zephyr® air quality sensors alongside MappAir® modelling to inform traffic management strategies in a bid to improve air quality and traffic flow in and around Oxford.

17 of the Zephyr® sensors are being used in static mode to gather temporal information and being integrated into roadside infrastructure by Siemens Mobility, including traffic signals and lighting columns on main roads into the city, ring roads and background urban sites seeing heavy congestion. Zephyr® sensors measure the local air quality for harmful gas concentrations including nitrogen dioxide (NO2), ozone (O3) and particle matter (PM2.5) in real-time for those problem areas but what about the areas in between?

This is where the use of a mobile Zephyr® sensor fit to an electric car in conjunction to advanced MappAir® modelled air quality data helps fill in the gaps of deployed sensors, and helps to understand the spatial context for the remaining areas of Oxford. The use of both measured and modelled data services from EarthSense is providing daily coverage for large, unaccounted for areas of the city, with the aim to uncover links between road emissions and roadside air quality.

Talking to Air Quality News about the project, EarthSense Managing Director, Tom Hall said: ‘integrating Zephyr® sensor data and MappAir® models with external systems means we are able to provide validated, high accuracy air quality information to inform a variety of mitigations and strategies to reduce air pollution in problem areas.

‘Integrating this data with Aimsun’s traffic modelling is helping Oxfordshire County Council’s iHub team to investigate how traffic management and control systems can be used to reduce emissions in the Oxford area and enables us to trial both the air quality predictions from MappAir® and the Aimsun model.’

What makes this project unique is that the traffic modelling feeds dynamically into the air quality model; despite being interlinked, traffic modelling and air quality are often considered independently and at arms’ length from final project outcomes.

This integrated approach allows analysis of response plans to predict air quality in near real-time, informing localised impact on emission hotspots, reducing peaks in pollutants, and working towards lowering annual averages.

As a result of the project so far, a number of traffic-based pollution lowering initiatives will be implemented, such as the closure of roads for heavy goods vehicles, changes in lane directions to improve traffic flow and increased timings on green lights for lower acceleration emissions.

It is hoped that this will enable Oxfordshire County Council’s ambition to have the world’s first zero-emission zone through planning and actively managing the highways networks.

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This article first appeared in the July issue of the Air Quality News magazine, which you can read here.




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