Traffic Light Exchange (TLEX) facilitates real-time data exchange between traffic lights and road users

Over the next few years, throughout the Netherlands, road users will be able to make use of information about traffic lights. It makes no difference what marque of car the road user is driving, what options have been supplied with the car, what city they are driving in and what supplier has supplied the traffic lights in that city. This will be made possible by the new national Traffic Light Exchange abbreviated to TLEX: the central point for the automated exchange of real-time data between new smart traffic light installations (iTLIs) and road users. The presence of TLEX places the Netherlands at the front of the pack. TLEX is the place where millions of data messages pass backwards and forwards between road users and intersections. As such, it represents a vital link in the Talking Traffic chain, whereby road users, iTLIs and infrastructure are able to communicate with each other in real time, with the aim of ensuring smooth, efficient and safe traffic flow. Data from all iTLIs (in other words from all suppliers of traffic lights) is accessed via TLEX, thereby generating national coverage.

TLEX receives huge volumes of data from intersections: when is which set of traffic lights red or green? This data is then passed on to so-called cloud services, at high speed. Not only iTLI data are delivered to the cloud but also data for example about weather conditions, available parking spaces, accidents and traffic jams. In the cloud, these data flows are combined and checked. Other companies use the data from the cloud to supply their customers in the car or even on the bicycle with customer real-time information via an app PND or navigation system.

Two-way traffic

The real-time data flow is two-way traffic; road users are also connected via their smartphone or navigation service, and when on the road, they feed valuable data back to the iTLI, via the cloud and TLEX. The new iTLIs therefore not only transmit but also receive data from TLEX, thereby allowing them for example to adjust their settings on the basis of actual traffic volumes. Using the new TLIs, road managers can opt to give certain road users priority above others: ambulances, heavy goods vehicles, public transport or groups of cyclists are given a green light, as soon as they approach the intersection. In other words, iTLIs are capable of adapting to current traffic volumes, vehicle types, distribution across the city and current speeds. Fewer unnecessary stops and starts mean smoother and safer traffic movements with considerably lower emission levels. In 2018, road managers plan to convert more than 1250 TLIs into iTLIs, right across the country, in particular at the busiest intersections. All remaining TLIs in the Netherlands will receive the same treatment, over the next few years.

TLEX guarantees the safe and reliable exchange of anonymous data to and from a traffic light. TLEX was developed under the umbrella of the Partnership Talking Traffic. Swarco, one of the companies in the Partnership Talking Traffic and an international player in the transport industry, was responsible for the development of TLEX. Within this Partnership, the most stringent demands are imposed on privacy and security, and those same demands, that also apply to TLEX, are carefully implemented and monitored.

Innovation of international relevance

Because TLEX makes use of international standards (SPaT, MAP), all suppliers offering TLIs in the Netherlands are involved and all road managers in the country, large and small, are gradually adapting their TLIs for the transmission and reception of data, a situation unmatched anywhere in the world. Over the next few years, anywhere in the Netherlands, road users will be able to use information about traffic lights via a choice of different navigation systems. Possibilities include recommended speed so that car drivers know for certain what speed they have to travel to be guaranteed of a traffic light at green, with no interruptions, or information about waiting times to green.

It makes no difference what marque of car they are driving or what options have or have not been supplied with the car, what city they are driving in and what supplier supplies the traffic lights in that particular city. These features place the Netherlands at the front of the pack. It goes without saying that all domestic and foreign service providers (navigation, apps, automotive manufacturers and others) can make use of TLEX, as a data exchange.

Research has shown that poorly set traffic lights cost society around € 90 million a year. Talking Traffic iTLIs mean that fully automated adjustments are made constantly, making dependency on detection loops in the road surface, at €1,000 each loop each year, a thing of the past.