A small Canadian city tries to drag intersections into the 21st century

A small Canadian city tries to drag intersections into the 21st century
By Matt McFarland

August 21, 2015

Have you ever sat pointlessly at a red light? There’s no cross-traffic, but the traffic light is clueless, so you’re forced to wait.

Miovision chief executive Kurtis McBride feels your pain.

“I can’t count the number of times I’ve been sitting at a red light with no cars around me and just wondering, ‘Why am I stuck in this situation,’ ” McBride said.

His Canadian start-up is bringing modern technology to an industry that is years behind. Smart intersections could learn the traffic patterns and adjust the length of red and green lights to optimize the flow of traffic. Sitting at a pointless red light would be a thing of the past. Miovision envisions full automated intersections that are powered by algorithms.

“It’s almost like they missed the Internet revolution,” McBride said. “We’re trying to apply some things that have been battle hardened in other industries.”

One Canadian transportation agency is currently testing Miovision’s technology in seven intersections on major arteries in Cambridge, Canada.

The Waterloo Region wasn’t ready to go all-in on automated intersections, but is trying the technology to learn of malfunctioning lights, and adjust the timing of its lights.

“We were struggling with trying to get communication systems, trying to do basic stuff,” said Mark Liddell, an analyst at Waterloo Region transit management. His group is doing its tests on a road that is a detour to a major highway.

“Right now if we hear of a [road] closure we’re sort of blindly making changes, assuming that traffic is going a certain way based on assigned detour routes or past history. Somebody has to physically go out there, drive around the area, get stuck in all the traffic,” Liddell said. “With this you have the cameras and the real-time information coming back to essentially do all that from the management center and get timing plans implemented quicker.”

McBride said that previously they would often have to rely on the public to call in when stoplights were out. Now they receive e-mail and text notifications.

They can also watch live video of intersections via cameras. When a problem is identified, the traffic engineers can adjust the light signals from the comfort of their office.

Egerton Heath, supervisor of traffic systems for the Waterloo Region, tells me they’d like to expand the technology outside those seven intersections, provided the tests go well.

Miovision, which is based near Waterloo, raised $30 million earlier this year from investors.


A small Canadian city tries to drag intersections into the 21st century

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