FLOW PATROL - How AI-driven traffic flow management can ease congestion, mitigate harmful emissions and save the planet

November 16, 2022

Olga Gonzalez

With the ever-increasing number of vehicles on our roads, the question of harmful greenhouse gas (GHG) reduction is at the top of everyone’s agenda as the transportation sector remains being the largest contributor of CO2 emissions. 

The strategic efforts to replace petrol and diesel cars (ICE) with electric vehicles (EVs) will not come to fruition in the near future for a variety of reasons. First of all, the price of an EV is significantly higher compared with a petrol vehicle. EV batteries have sufficient charge for midrange trips and require frequent recharging and there is still no unified charging standard for EVs. The overall penetration and number of EV charging stations available today is still largely insufficient. 

All of this leaves us with the current situation where we are still bound to use ICE vehicles for some time going forward. 

With road transport accounting for 21% of EU Greenhouse Gas emissions (and that’s 21% of a total 1.527 billion tons in 2019) that also globally accounts for 40% of total emissions, the need for a commercially available solution to a hugely environmentally damaging problem has never been more acute. It is rather obvious that the highest emissions from a petrol vehicle occur when they are in heavy traffic. Constant start-stop and near stationary traffic produces significantly more CO2 gasses per road section compared to the same road section with a fluid traffic flow. Acoustic pollution, among a whole host of other pollutants, is also harmful and increasingly becoming an urban challenge.

Highways’ combination of private cars, passenger vehicles, buses, coaches and trucks leads to a heady (and harmful) mix of CO2, hydrocarbons, sulfur dioxide (SO2) and other pollutants, causing serious problems in the atmospheric environment. 

So, what do we need to do to resolve this situation? An obvious solution would be to increase road traffic throughput with efficient traffic management. By cleverly managing traffic speed, making sure that there are no bottlenecks and by quickly removing congestion and incidents, road operators and municipalities can see an immediate impact in air quality and reduced pollution. 


The current range of ATMS (advanced traffic management systems) relies on the existing roadside infrastructure (cameras, radars, sensors, loops) and provides traffic control centers with information for their daily operations. However, the existing infrastructure has limitations. Traffic monitoring cameras have blind spots. Installing additional radars and sensors to obtain road coverage is very costly, thus it is not feasible from an operations point of view. 

Deployment of a new-generation of ATMS, such as Lanternn by Valerann™, capable of taking advantage of a broad range of data sources that are available today thanks to the Internet of Things (IoT), connected vehicles and other location-based services (eg weather forecasts, crowdsourcing data) opens up new opportunities in elevating traffic management to new heights.  

Lanternn by Valerann™ not only ingests data directly from CO2 sensors, it performs real-time complex analysis on a range of parameters, taking into account historical and current traffic and weather data, thus equipping road traffic operators with intelligence for efficient road traffic management. 

So, let’s examine the cold, hard facts of the successful implementation of our cutting-edge solution:

• 2.6% reduction in CO2 emissions per vehicle-mile;

• Potential EU CO2-equivalent GHG savings per year: 8.3 million tonnes;

• Addressable EU CO2-equivalent savings per year: 3.9 million tonnes;

• Target savings per year: 400k tonnes by 2025.

The obvious question needs to be asked: how do we do this in an environment in which municipalities and states are demanding more accurate CO2 emission assessments?




There are many approaches that can be taken and it comes down to a top-down or a bottom-up approach. The latter means gathering the data from the field, which in this case is the roads. This can be from the vehicle itself or from the sensors - we’re then able to draw a picture of what's happening at a particular time of the day, on a specific day of the week, at a certain point during the month and then take action on that. We can very quickly identify an incident on the road and notify operators so they can take appropriate measures to clear the problematic areas.


The opposite is the top-down approach, entailing much more simplistic engineering, which is the one that has been utilised here. Nowadays it basically works on an estimated number of vehicles that travel on a particular road, generalising about the mix of the vehicles that are present and calculating the emissions, but it's some distance from being accurate. 


For instance, by recognising and counting different types of vehicles you know much more precisely what type of emissions are being released, plus you can merge this data, removing unhelpful duplications, with hard-braking data and so on, because we are ingesting telematics floating car data.


Like seemingly everything else in life, it’s all about the data but it’s the quality of the data that makes the crucial difference.


For example, by not needing hardware and by purely using data that is already available, we know that a particular diesel truck is accelerating on a particular segment of the road which means that particular segment is much more contaminated than another comparable one. By leveraging floating car data you do not need to install additional static environmental sensors on the road, meaning that road operators can reduce their capital expenditure (CAPEX). You're basically just pulling the data that is already available at road level and performing analysis on top of it.



With CO2 emissions and pollution mitigation in the transport sector never being higher on the political agenda, and with a particular reference to worldwide traffic springing back up to pre-pandemic levels (and exceeding them in many locations), one could say that we are, so to speak, striking while the iron is hot.


Lantern by Valerann™ is part of the roadmap to support road operators in their quest to improve traffic flow and therefore reduce emissions. The use of floating car data (FCD), still considered as disruptive tech in the field of traffic quality improvement, makes the assessment of CO2 emissions more accurate. 


Our economic model, and our lives in general, have been built around the car, the roads and the importance of road infrastructure. As a consequence, reducing emissions while being so dependent on automotive transportation is a challenging task. Second of all is, of course, the direct impact that this has on our health. You might be aware of what’s called the “cage effect” - sitting in your car in traffic you might think you're actually protected by the chassis, but actually it’s the opposite. The particulate matters seep in and you're actually absorbing them like a sponge when you're sitting in traffic.


Technology can’t address pressing issues by itself. The solutions need to be purchased and implemented by leaders of forward-thinking local, regional and national authorities. 


Our lifestyles are getting more and more dynamic every day, but this means that cities are getting more condensed and tighter every year. What this also means is that more cars are driving into our cities so more action needs to be taken by the local authorities to basically decide who is allowed in and when. 



We provide truthful and trusted traffic data – and we can say the same about carbon emissions. We can be the source of truth on what emissions levels are on a particular road at a specific time in a specific kilometer. We can accurately provide predictive data depending on what is going to happen in terms of the weather, what is going to happen with the increase in the population and, therefore, the subsequent increase in vehicles. We can run analytics on many datasets and draw a variety of conclusions.


However, we are not claiming to be the “magic stick” with which to cure all transport and traffic ills, but we can be a tool for authorities to more precisely plan ahead and know in real time what is and what was happening in terms of CO2 emissions without investment in CAPEX. 


Our team is highly knowledgeable and experienced in data assessment, CO2 emissions and sustainability. Please contact us with your ideas of how we can work together.