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Young innovators seek to solve Churchill Avenue – UZ road traffic woes

Students showcased their innovations at the UZ Research Innovation and Industrialization Week

Sifelani Tsiko Innovations Editor

A team of five University of Zimbabwe computer engineering informatics and communications students have come up with a traffic management application that aims to solve the congestion problem at the intersection of Churchill Avenue and a trunk road leading out of UZ.

Genius Mpala, (25), Kasirai Taoneswa (21), Thabolezwe Mabandla (21), Gamuchirai Nyasulu (21) and Shawn Matyanga (21) developed what they call a ‘Priority Based Traffic Light’ that sought to address traffic woes using a combination of pre-set timing and computer adaptation.

“Our project called Priority Based Traffic Light targets to solve the issue of congestion at the intersection of Churchill Avenue and a road leading out of the UZ,” said Genius, the project leader.

“Most of the time during busy hours, especially in the morning and in the evening, vehicles moving out of UZ tend to be stuck at the gate due to traffic jams. This could cause accidents as motorists driving out UZ become impatient and force their way out.”

To solve this problem, he said, they created a priority-based traffic light that could also give motorists moving out of UZ a chance to go out without being also affected by road users along Churchill Avenue.

“We are going to create a traffic light with sensors inside the UZ road. These sensors will notify the motorists moving along Churchill Avenue to give priority to vehicles moving out of UZ,” Genius said.

“In the event that there are a lot of cars coming out of UZ and along Churchill Avenue, the system is able to intelligently balance and reduce traffic jams and congestion.”

The students were doing an honours degree in Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning.

Their project was chosen for exhibition at the just ended UZ Research Innovation and Industrialisation Week.

The UZ Innovation Hub was now assisting the students to scale up their innovation to ease the traffic woes at the intersection of Churchill Avenue and a road leading out of the institution.

“The UZ Innovation Hub liked our project and we have been promised funding to develop our ideas further,” Genius said.

“We also hope to install similar systems at the northern UZ main entrance and other roads close to the institution. This prototype is what we will be using to convince the Harare City Council to allow us to install the traffic control system to ease congestion and reduce accidents.”

Said Thabolezwe, a team member: “We also intend to make use of a Computer Vision programme for improved accuracy and remote monitoring of our system. This will be implemented using CCTV footage and artificial intelligence.

“If scaled up, this traffic light system will also give priority to emergency services such as the fire department, ambulance services and also the presidential motorcade.”

“As a team, we are going to put more effort into increasing the accuracy and how it operates by using more knowledge we are gaining from learning – that is – the use of computer vision through the use of cameras on the traffic lights.

“We also want to add more functionalities for delegates and any emergency activities that might take place on the road,” said Taoneswa, another member of the team.

Zimbabwe is supporting students at various institutions to develop a range of smart technologies to address problems facing various sectors of the economy.

The annual showpiece was held under the theme: “University of Zimbabwe: Actualisation of a Research-Innovation-Industrialisation Ecosystem Model for Zimbabwe’s Economic Development.”

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