Forget concrete cows and roundabout - Milton Keynes is to become the city of the ‘thinking’ traffic lights

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More than 2,500 ‘Smart’ traffic lights are to be installed all over Milton Keynes to make rush hour jams a thing of the past.

The £3m worth of lights will be in place by September next year - making MK the first place in the UK to use the cutting-edge technology.

Currently traffic lights work in sequences, but Smart lights use artificial intelligence to assess where there is heavy traffic and adjust their pattern accordingly.

Fitted with tiny cameras, they will automatically give priority to ambulances, buses and even cyclists. They will also make roads safer for pedestrians and drivers alike.

The new system has been developed by a company called Vivacity Labs, and has already won £1.7m of funding from the government’s start-up arm Innovate UK.

It is part of a national trend towards ‘smart cities’, which use intelligence and sensors to control everything from waste management to water use.

Milton Keynes, with its driverless cars and high tech reputation, has always been ahead of the game in the smart city stakes.

The Smart traffic lights will even be able to “communicate” with driverless cars in the future, said the chief technology officer at Vivacity Labs, Yang Lu.

“The AI camera accurately identifies and reports road usage, removing the need for cumbersome manual interpretation and significantly reducing the potential for human error,” he said,

The lights will also make roads safer for pedestrians and drivers by alerting vehicles of potential hazards nearby.

Yu said: “It can improve traffic today as it can be linked with existing management systems to keep vulnerable road users, such as cyclists, safe by giving priority at lights, or alter signs to direct traffic away from congestion,”