The city of York is tackling congestion on its medieval streets by using a network of sensors to monitor traffic, in a scheme that may be rolled out nationally.
The sensors will collect data from passing vehicles and allow planners to change traffic lights to smooth out congestion.
The data will also allow officials to predict traffic patterns during bad weather and to route vehicles through less busy areas.
York council has won more than £3m from the Department for Transport and the National Productivity Investment Fund to run the trial, which it says uses proven technology in a new way and will “act as a beacon” for other cities.
“Our famous historic city hasn’t got the space for more road, so we have to use technology as much as tarmac,” said Peter Dew, the city’s council member for transport.
“What happens on York’s roads over the next couple of years will help to define how traffic is managed in the UK,” he added.
An initial trial involves six sensors on the main A59 from Harrogate, which will start functioning in June. If successful the system will go citywide and traffic lights will react automatically to the data.
Sensors will be mounted on traffic lights, bollards and other street furniture. They will be able to monitor mobile phone signals to track the progress of individual drivers across the city. York said its system would also be able to communicate with connected and driverless cars in the future.
“By applying technologies that are already in use in the UK in trials and deployments to a whole city, we will be able to maximise benefits and act as a beacon for other similar cities,” said a spokesman.
It said data will be securely collected and anonymised and “will be stored in a secure cloud subject to UK government security principles”.
York, one of the most popular destinations in the UK for tourists, has spent £22m on new park and ride sites and electric buses. It hopes to encourage more people to use those facilities by changing travel habits.