Traffic signals that ‘sense' an approaching ambulance and automatically turn green? Futuristic? Not really. They will become a reality when the area traffic control system near the new Secretariat complex becomes operational next month.

The new traffic signal grid, forming a virtual loop system, will comprise 13 locations along Anna Salai and Kamaraj Salai. Ambulances, fire engines and other high priority vehicles will be fitted with ‘pre-emption' devices that can communicate with the signals.

Since repeated campaigns on the need to strictly enforce the right of way for ambulances have not been able to achieve results, the city traffic police are now turning to technology to find solutions.

Additional Commissioner of Police (Traffic) M. Ravi said, “The signals will be linked through wireless technology to a master control. The volume of traffic within the ‘grid' can be regulated efficiently from the centralised location.”

A digital controller at each junction can decide which direction of vehicular flow must be prioritised based on vehicle density, said a senior traffic official.

As opposed to the present signals that operate on a timer, the new signals will measure the level of traffic congestion on the road and adjust lights to prevent bottlenecks.

According to the official, once the area control system comes into place, it would be gradually linked to CCTVs and variable message sign displays to develop an intelligent traffic system, which will be able to monitor overall congestion and also suggest routes to take.

Subsequently, the area control mechanism will be extended to other high priority zones such as Rajiv Gandhi Salai and EVR Periyar Salai.

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