UK Highways Agency sends live traffic updates to mobile phones

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The new mobile site also provides audio streaming of Traffic Radio, the Highways Agency's 24-hour digital radio station based at the National Traffic Control Centre.

Entering www.highways.gov.uk/ into most phone web browsers will now take users directly to a mobile friendly version of the Highways Agency website, with traffic updates searchable by road or region – or even access to streaming audio from Traffic Radio. If the phone doesn't divert automatically, then www.highways.gov.uk/mobile goes to the same place.

Around two thousand cameras and six thousand vehicle detection systems now feed into an estimated four terabytes of data at the Birmingham-based centre. This is then presented to road users as live traffic updates using an array of communications channels from the Google MapsTM traffic feature to variable message signs and radio broadcasts.

Live images from Highways Agency cameras can be viewed on the Agency's website. Thousands of detector loops buried in the road surface measure traffic flows and this is shown as live information on maps and charts on the Agency website. In the latest version unveiled just before Easter, users can see the speed of slow moving traffic.

The same information can be seen on Google MapsTM by clicking the 'traffic' button. England's motorways and main roads light up in green to show they are free-flowing, or amber and red when the traffic is moving slowly. Google MapsTM takes a 'Datex2' data feed from the Highways Agency and overlays this onto its maps.

The Highways Agency's National Traffic Control Centre keeps an eye on the entire network, plotting planned and unplanned incidents to alert road users. Unplanned incidents, mostly breakdowns or crashes, can be spotted by sensors, CCTV, emergency calls or Traffic Officer patrols, and if these look likely to cause major congestion, control centre operators can set variable message signs on the network.

It can take several hours to re-open a motorway after a serious accident, especially if the Highways Agency needs to wait for the police to clear the scene and gather evidence before it can start any temporary repairs and get traffic moving again. High-tech surveying and scanning equipment has been introduced to speed up the evidence gathering process.

The Highways Agency uses GPS equipment to determine the exact location of all the traffic officer patrols and send them to the scene of an incident quickly. GPS is also used to keep track of the Agency's salt-spreaders and snowploughs, which are deployed according to reports from remote temperature measuring gadgets buried in the road surface.


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