Have you ever felt frustrated when caught in a traffic jam, or experienced danger when trying to cross a road?
Cars are machines of convenience, which facilitate smooth transportation of people and goods. However, increases in traffic volume create congestion and hazardous road conditions. These adversely affect people's lives, as well as physical distribution in an urban environment. Particularly in Asian countries enjoying rapid economic growth, traffic congestion and accidents resulting from an increasing number of vehicles have recently become serious problems. One urban development planner shared his concern: "Traffic congestion impacts the flow of goods, which is the backbone of our economy. More and more people try to cross roads by weaving their way through gaps in the never-ending stream of traffic. We must do something to redress the current situation in order to further develop our economy and ensure safer living."
To address such worries, Omron proposes traffic control systems for various cities in Asia. Drawing on Omron proprietary automation technology, these systems use sensors to detect the flow of vehicles and pedestrians and provide real-time control over traffic that changes moment by moment.
Around 1960, Japan also experienced serious problems with traffic jams and accidents. This became known as the "traffic war." Because there were only a few traffic signals at that time, it was very common to see pedestrians trying to cross the road by weaving their way between gaps in heavy traffic. To enable pedestrians to cross the road more safely, one answer would be to increase the number of traffic signals and crosswalks. But adopting this measure alone would make vehicles have to stop more frequently, which in turn would cause traffic congestion and interfere with physical distribution. Why not use Omron's technology to ensure both safety for pedestrians and a smooth flow of vehicles?
Since its establishment, Omron has promoted automation through its sensing and control technologies. This effort has led to the development of a traffic signal control system employing Japan's first vehicle detector.
A vehicle detector is designed to accurately detect the presence of vehicles on a road, or measure traffic volume and other events taking place on that road. But in reality, different kinds of vehicles are on the road at any given time. Some are traveling fast, some are slow; some are large, others small; some are heavy, some are light, etc. This makes it extremely difficult to detect all kinds of vehicles correctly with a single sensor. Consequently, the necessary sensing technology varies according to the place and the object to be detected. Further, the detector must be durable enough to operate problem-free regardless of day or night, and in any weather conditions, even in rain or snow.
Control of traffic signals based on accurate assessment of traffic volume and other road conditions is essential for easing traffic jams. This in turn requires information processing technology that can process many kinds of information, including the volume and speed of vehicles. It must process all this information simultaneously and at high speed for efficient control of traffic.
Our traffic control system gradually spread throughout Japan. But traffic control systems used in different parts of Japan are not all the same, because road conditions and traffic requirements vary from region to region. For this reason, Omron engineers begin by familiarizing themselves with a city's atmosphere and traffic flow by walking and driving around the city at various times during the day. This enables a thorough observation of each region's specific road conditions and traffic culture. We can also command a bird's eye view of a city and imagine the residents' lifestyles and movement of vehicles and people. This helps us configure a traffic control system tailored to a particular city.
When presenting proposals to urban developers in Asia, we try to share the issues of the particular city under development and its future image by pointing out issues that they haven't noticed. We can do this by leveraging our bird's eye view and our extensive experience in Japan.
We start by studying a city to develop technology, rather than starting from technology and trying to apply it to a city. If any of the sensing technologies we have is not applicable to a particular road, we start by developing a new sensor. Requirements for a traffic control system vary according to the degree of each country/region's economic development, the behavior of its citizens, and other factors. To respond to these diversified needs, we continue to change ourselves as we steadily advance our technologies and solutions.
Congestion-free roads and a safe traffic environment for pedestrians enable a comfortable and harmonious coexistence of people and vehicles. This facilitates smooth and efficient distribution of goods in a region. At the same time, it is vital for convenient lifestyles and the well-being of people living in the community. Our aim is to ensure the safe and smooth flow of vehicles and pedestrians in the future. To this end, we are determined to make maximum use of Omron's automation technology in various cities throughout Asia.