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IBM Smarter Cities initiative to fight traffic congestion in Lyon

France and IBM are eyeing a solution to traffic congestion and accidents with a trial beginning in the French city of Lyon.

At the Smart City Expo and World Congress in Barcelona, the computer manufacturer and officials representing Lyon announced a new technology aimed at providing real-time support to help reduce traffic congestion and enable faster incident response.

According to IBM, researchers are piloting a system that will help traffic operators make more informed decisions to restore traffic flow when snarls crop up. Fed with real-time data, the analytics and optimisation technology can help predict outcomes and analyse different scenarios to resolve problems.

Recommended actions, IBM explained, could include adjusting traffic signals to allow a detour, adjusting ramp metering or road closures, or changing variable message signs to alert drivers to trouble along their routes.

"As the city of Lyon strives to improve mobility for its citizens and become a leader in sustainable transportation, piloting this analytics technology will help the city anticipate and avoid many traffic jams before they happen and lessen their impact on citizens," Senator Mayor of Lyon Gerard Collomb said in a statement.

Collomb said he hopes the new technology will benefit public transportation, turning it into a credible alternative to the use of private cars.

Lyon's traffic management centres are already dressed up with sophisticated equipment, but officials are still using predefined response plans or making decisions on the fly when faced with traffic problems. Software from IBM now combines the city's historical and real-time traffic data with advanced analytics and algorithms to predict both normal and incident conditions. According to IBM, the algorithms will continue to learn as they are put to use.

"Today transportation departments often capture real-time traffic data, but there is no effective way to manage and find actionable insight to act upon instantaneously for the immediate benefit of the traveler," Sylvie Spalmacin-Roma, vice president of IBM's Smarter Cities Europe, said. "With the City of Lyon, we will demonstrate how the transportation management center of the future will use analytics."

The new predictive traffic management tech, dubbed Decision Support System Optimizer (DSSO), is based on IBM-backed Smarter Cities projects in cities around the world.

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