TRAILBLAZING technology could soon be able to clear Oxford’s congested roads for ambulances on their way to save lives.
Talks will begin next week over how to make the city one of the first in the country to trial an intelligent transport system that can change traffic lights to allow emergency vehicles to reach emergencies much faster.
Liverpool-based tech firm Red Ninja has developed an algorithm called Life First Emergency Traffic Control (LiFE) that lets the emergency services use real-time data about congestion to manipulate traffic.
Unlike existing technology, the LiFE system can identify routes much further ahead, so rather than having to weave around cars, the roads can be effectively cleared ahead of ‘blue-light’ ambulances.
This could shave precious minutes off response times for the most serious callouts.
And a meeting will take place on February 1 as Oxfordshire County Council and South Central Ambulance Service (SCAS) meet with the tech firm with a view to rolling out the system this year.
Project manager Lily Yang said: “The whole point of the technology is to help the emergency services get through bad traffic and the city has well known problems making it a perfect testing ground.
“I think this has come along at a great time for Oxford and it would be amazing to be first to do this and use all the attention that would generate to achieve even more.”
She added: “As long as the willing is there, and from what I’ve seen from the county council it is, then we can address any specific challenges later on in the process. This is something that would make a real difference to people’s lives.”
Approximately one in four ambulances, 26.8 per cent, from SCAS did not reach life-threatening calls last year within the government’s old eight-minute target.
While this is below the national average of one in three changes introduced late last year mean such calls now should be responded to in an average time of seven minutes and at least nine out of ten times within 15 minutes.
Red lights and congestion are two of the main reasons ambulances are delayed.
SCAS spokesman David Gallagher said: “We met with Red Ninja towards the end of 2017 and look forward to working with them this year to trial their technology on our ambulances.”
Red Ninja has so far only trialled the system on a small section of Liverpool, but have used historic data from the city to map how using LiFE would have affected call out times.
Mobility Oxford, a research group aimed at promoting better transport within the city, have been helping the tech company understand local issues.
They predict it could reduce response times in areas like Oxford by up to 40 per cent.
Oxfordshire County Council will chair the advisory board at Oxford University‘s Mathematical Institute.
The board will bring together experts in paramedic science, artificial intelligence and transport systems to discuss how LiFE could be used in Oxford and across the county.
Kate Mancey, from Red Ninja, said the meeting would provide a chance for them to learn what places would be best to trial the technology but suggested an area around the John Radcliffe Hospital could be an ideal candidate.
She added: “Once something is agreed we could conceivably have this rolled out within the quarter and would certainly want to have it in place by the end of the year.”
County council spokesman Martin Crabtree said: “Oxfordshire County Council have provided priority at traffic lights for emergency vehicles in the past using SCOOT, such as Green Waves for fire tenders.
“As technology evolves, Oxfordshire County Council are committed to investigating innovative ideas to assist emergency vehicles through the road network.”