NHS vehicles trial tech that turns traffic lights green on command

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Traffic lights are a pet peeve for many city-dwelling drivers. You'll be running late for a meeting, but all of your attempts to make up the time are thwarted by successive red lights. Bad luck on the road can be particularly problematic for ambulances in the UK -- when they're rushing to the scene of an accident, every second counts. To help out, Newcastle University is spearheading a new project that gives NHS vehicles priority at the lights.

As The Telegraph reports, a small gizmo fitted to the windscreen detects the traffic lights from roughly 100 metres away and requests priority before their arrival. The system can also recommend drivers an average speed which will carry them through a series of green lights without interruption. Extra features include alerting drivers to road obstacles and other motorists currently jumping red lights. The hope is that such a system will improve not only journey times, but also the comfort of patients being ferried across the city.

For now, 14 non-emergency NHS vehicles and 20 traffic lights are fitted with the new "Compass4D" system. If successful, the pilot could be expanded to a broader range of vehicles, including driverless cars. It's important to note that if you don't have the technology fitted in your vehicle, you shouldn't be penalised either. Newcastle's Urban Traffic Management Control (UTMC) centre is monitoring the project and says the changing traffic lights shouldn't impact other motorists. "There would be no point doing this if it meant the roads were a nightmare for the cars that weren't fitted with it," Ray King, a UTMC manager told The Telegraph. "But so far it doesn't seem to be causing any problems."

[Image Credit: AP Photo/Michael Probst

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