Dr Mauro Vallati has received a prestigious Future Leaders Fellowship for his innovative research into systems driven by artificial intelligence (AI) for urban traffic control.
The Fellowship, from UK Research and Innovation (UKRI) will enable Dr Vallati to further his work on providing a solution to an issue that affects the UK's economy and the health of the nation, in partnership with Transport for Greater Manchester, Kirklees council, and SimplifAI systems. The Fellowship will last four years, and allows the University to apply for up to £1.4m in funding for the project.
Traffic congestion, one of the major issues to be dealt with by urban traffic control, costs the UK economy an estimated £8bn each year, while pollution from slow-moving traffic contributes to the deaths of 50,000 people annually.
Dr Vallati's new research will focus on the design of a framework able to tackle the critical problems of traffic congestion and environmental issues in urban areas, by generating strategies consisting of, for instance, altering existing traffic light sequences and communicating with vehicles to suggest that they drop speed, change routes to avoid congested areas or switch to electric power.
"It's an autonomic framework that can self-manage and adapt to things that change over time," says Dr Vallati, who has researched the subject for more than six years. "It will try to predict, using AI, how traffic conditions will evolve, with regards to things that are likely to happen such as accidents, high congestion or poor air quality.
"A response is triggered that will analyse a specific area, and identifies actions that can be taken, like optimising traffic light settings or sending information to any connected vehicles in the area. More vehicles are likely to be connected in the future, like many TVs are now, for example.
"If air quality is poor, vehicles could be instructed to maybe switch from fuel to electric, to avoid the area, or the number of lanes could be reduced."
Professor Stephen Donnelly, Dean of the School of Computing and Engineering, commented, "I was absolutely delighted to hear of the award of a UKRI Future Leaders Fellowship to Dr Mauro Vallati.
"As someone who has spent many years living in a large metropolitan area, I am well aware of the effects of the year-on-year worsening of traffic congestion in UK cities. This is a global problem and one that carries with it an enormous cost in wasted time and wasted fuel.
"This is a project that will have a beneficial impact on the individual commuter, the environment and the economy. The award of this fellowship to Mauro will greatly enhance his own career but will also provide us with a future research leader at the University of Huddersfield."
UKRI Future Leaders Fellowships are aimed at growing the strong supply of talented individuals needed to ensure a vibrant environment for research and innovation in the UK. The scheme has been developed with unprecedented levels of flexibility to support applicants from a wide range of experiences, disciplines and sectors.