Queensland's Department of Transport and Main Roads (TMS) is set to trial a new traffic light system that prioritises emergency vehicles in a bid to save more lives.
The Emergency Vehicle Priority (EVP) system has been designed to give the state's fire and ambulance vehicles a clear run of green lights on route to an emergency via an intelligent transport system application.
It automatically detects an emergency vehicle's approach and allows it to proceed through traffic signals with greater safety.
The system, which will operate at Southport from mid-November, was built and integrated across existing devices and systems by an internal development team.
"EVP uses computer-aided dispatch, GPS and traffic management information to determine the location of an emergency vehicle and to calculate estimated times of arrival at intersections," a TMS spokesperson told iTnews.
"The EVP system then sends messages to traffic lights that there is an emergency vehicle approaching, and requests the light changes to green as quickly as possible."
According to the spokesperson, safety was TMS' number one priority when building the new system, with "much effort" spent to ensure requests are only actioned by the traffic signals when it is safe to do so (giving pedestrians sufficient time to clear the intersection, for example).
Prior to EVP's deployment, TMS contracted road network management provider Transmax to enhance its Intelligent Transport System (ITS) platform STREAMS.
The new STREAMS functionalities developed for VPS include dynamic interventions for minimal traffic impact, pedestrian clearance protection, live monitoring at traffic management centres, rich context to third parties for vehicle routing and user-configurable recovery algorithms.
The TMS spokeperson said that balancing the duration of an intervention to minimise impact on traffic was one of the biggest challenges its traffic engineers faced.
"To provide effective service for emergency vehicles, the traffic signals on their approach must be changed to green before their arrival. This allows time for any existing queues to clear before the arrival of an emergency vehicle.
"The key was to ensure the position of any vehicle was known and communicated regularly in conjunction with the known status of each system."
The spokeperson said the impact of EVP on traffic would be examined and monitored during the trial.
"Testing to date has not revealed any detrimental impact to the traffic network," the spokeperson said.
The Southport trial follows a smaller EVP trial which took place in Bundaberg in 2008. According to TMS, the Bundaberg trial showed emergency response time savings of "up to 20 percent".