No one likes a traffic jam, but they are a daily reality for most large and growing metropolitan areas around the world from Los Angeles to Mexico City to Moscow. And the problem will only get worse, with 70 percent of the global population expected to live in cities by 2050. So, what can be done?

Intuition tells us that if roads are congested, then we should build more roads or add additional lanes. In reality, that is hardly the panacea to our global traffic woes. Researchers at the University of Toronto and University of Pennsylvania actually found that congestion actually increases when new roads are built.

While public infrastructure improvements are still necessary, the world will benefit most immediately and profoundly by connecting roadways through digital technology. Cisco estimates that connected transportation solutions, such as sensors embedded in pavement, license plate-recognition systems, and video cameras that monitor traffic incidents in real time represent a $188 billion opportunity world-wide. We’re already seeing the incredible impact that Connected Roadway solutions can have on improving traffic issues in places like Austria, Stockholm, and Alaska, where we’ve securely connected disparate intelligent transportation systems to improve traffic flow, reduce roadside incidents, and provide a centralized view of highway systems.

Through our Country Digitization initiative, we are now proud to take Cisco Connected Roadways to the next level by working with TomTom, a global leader in navigation, mapping and traffic products. This project and eventual joint solution will help the Netherlands to achieve its goal of reducing the average travel times in the busiest areas of the country by 10 percent. Additionally, by integrating TomTom’s traffic management technology with Cisco’s converged network infrastructure, we’re building the next wave of traffic optimization and leading the way into the next levels of programmable driving. The collaboration with TomTom is key to the success of delivering data from roadside sensors remarkably faster than traditional methods. TomTom will interpret Cisco’s data, technology, and expertise and turn it into a traffic feed that can be shared with drivers and road authorities. We share TomTom’s commitment to fighting congestion and improving mobility around the world, and look forward to working with them on the goals that follow.

Ending Traffic Jams for Good

Imagine a world without traffic. It is difficult considering that in the United States alone traffic congestion results in 4 billion hours of travel delay, and nearly 3 billion gallons of gas used, at a cost of $80 billion per year. Cisco builds the industry leading roadside infrastructure platform to absorb and normalize roadside sensor data by leveraging their edge compute platform, which will predict traffic gridlocks before they occur and redirect incoming vehicles to enable the reduction in cost and time delays.

These solutions will also dramatically reduce carbon emissions around the globe. The logic is simple: less traffic means less time on the road, which means fewer tanks of gas used over the same distance. For example, Cisco’s work with the Stockholm government to cut down on traffic congestion has reduced carbon dioxide emissions by 2 to 3 percent.

Putting Safety First

According to the World Health Organization, 1.25 million people die each year from road traffic events. These incidents are largely avoidable and caused by improper traffic management or inadequate road conditions. Advanced data analytics paired with increased communication has the power to make our roads and our lives safer. The Cisco Connected Roadways system simplifies collaboration between transit operators and emergency services, enabling smart streetlights to recognize a public safety vehicle approaching and clear the route in advance, improving emergency response times and potentially saving lives. Cisco will be the bridge between roadside authorities and the automotive industry. With strong relationships with TomTom, we will jointly provide infrastructure technology for next level safe, smart, and programmable driving.

In extreme conditions this new system will help save lives. Take for instance Alaska’s Elliott and Dalton highways of which long stretches are hundreds of miles from town and often buried under ice and snow. Thanks to Cisco’s work with the Alaska Department of Transportation & Public Facilities (ADOT & PF) which digitized these highways, plow drivers can now quickly assess local conditions along the highway and report accidents. This relationship began saving lives right away in Deadhorse, Alaska, where authorities were able to identify a truck fire 40 miles from town. The fire was located and reported, and a rescue crew dispatched immediately – a process that was would have previously taken hours.

Improving Our Investments

The American Road & Transportation Builder Association reports that the construction of a new two-lane undivided road in a rural area costs $2 million to $3 million per mile – increasing to $5 million in urban areas. Billions of dollars are poured into maintaining and constructing infrastructure every year, not only in the United States, but around the world. By working with existing structures, Cisco’s Connected Roadways solutions are a cost-effective and scalable way to strengthen and prolong these investments.

The benefits of digitizing the world’s highways are numerous. Cisco, in partnership with TomTom, is proud to play a role in helping ensure the road ahead is smooth, literally and figuratively, for all the world’s travelers.