Drivers may soon be able to use their mobile phones to ease frustrations caused by the apparent whims of traffic signals, if a research project by a Victoria University professor goes ahead.

The research would explore using mobile devices to predict traffic movements, Victoria University of Wellington associate professor Dr Paul Teal said."Although the traffic control system in New Zealand is relatively advanced, it can't anticipate traffic flow, which is part of the reason why roads get congested," said Dr Teal.

"It's also why we often find ourselves sitting at the lights even when there is no traffic around."The project aimed to use mobile devices in cars to convey key information before a vehicle arrived at an intersection.Dr Teal said the information would be used to set a more appropriate phasing of traffic lights.

GPS tracking technology would be used to determine speed and location, with the information then sent back to a centralised traffic control system.Research would determine how the information collected would be used to make decisions.

Advertisement

Wider application of the technology might include providing information on vehicle weight, fuel economy, destination and costs of traffic delays.Information might be collected through an ordinary GPS system on a mobile phone or through a dedicated device, said Dr Teal.

Using a mobile phone would reduce infrastructure costs but a dedicated device would result in truer reporting of costs.A recently released report said Auckland and Wellington were the second and third most congested cities in Australasia.

The OECD Economic Surveys New Zealand report suggested putting demand management strategies in place to reduce urban road congestion.A 2013 New Zealand Transport Agency (NZTA) research report estimated the annual cost of traffic delays in the Auckland region alone at $1.25 billion.

Funding is currently being sought for the research project, which would bring economists and engineers together, said Dr Teal.