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Hamburg Working to Save Motorists 113 hours Normally Lost to Traffic Jams

Hamburg, Germany
FLIR Systems

Government Champion

Hamburg Verkehrsanlagen GmbH (HHVA)

Project Status

Operational since 2019

At a Glance

Hamburg is using thermal imaging sensors distributed throughout the city to track vehicle, bike and pedestrian traffic and adjust signals in (near) real-time to reduce congestion. In addition, the data is being shared across city departments to enable better coordination and planning.

Problem Addressed

Hamburg is Germany’s second largest city and a major port city in the North of the country. It is connected to the North Sea by the Elbe River. Hamburg is quickly building a reputation as Germany’s most innovative smart city. The city has launched no less than 60 smart city initiatives that address the city’s mobility and sustainability challenges.

Hamburg feels a high sense of urgency to tackle its mobility problems. According to a 2018 survey of German cities by navigation technology company TomTom®, Hamburg has more congestion than any other city in Germany, even Berlin. The study revealed that in 2018, Hamburg commuters encountered jams on 33% of road journeys, which means motorists lost on average 113 hours a year to traffic jams.

The city of Hamburg needed a traffic solution that would not only help decrease the amount of traffic jams, but also reduce vehicle idling time without violating the privacy of road users.

Hamburg Verkehrsanlagen GmbH (HHVA) used/is using FLIR System's thermal sensors to address this/these challenge(s).

Solution(s) Used

To meet its high need for traffic data, Hamburg Verkehrsanlagen GmbH (HHVA), the city’s public service provider for traffic control and infrastructure, ordered more than 2,000 FLIR thermal imaging sensors for vehicle and bike detection, to be installed on traffic lights and street lighting by 2021. Data collected by the FLIR sensors is fed to the city’s Urban Data Platform, a cloud-based platform that enables its users to evaluate the data in real time. One of the users of the platform is the Hamburg traffic police, who is using the data to optimize traffic light control and solve traffic issues, like unusual congestion or roadworks, much faster.


FLIR cameras attached to 45 street lights will be used to collect data about bicycle traffic for the Hamburg-wide Bicycle Traffic Counting Network project. The cameras are installed on important bicycle routes in the inner city, on major entry routes, and on the Elbe river crossing, which has heavy traffic due to the few crossing points. In the past, the city counted bicycles via in-ground magnetic loops, optical sensors, or even manually. The new FLIR sensors will be mounted on the existing lighting infrastructure and monitor bicycle traffic 24/7 which according to city officials is saving time and money.


The city of Hamburg opted for FLIR’s ThermiCam 2, an integrated thermal sensor and detector, because it gives them the ability to monitor intersections closely 24 hours a day in all conditions. That is because the sensors work by detecting heat emitted from vehicles and cyclists. As a result, they don’t need light to detect vehicles and bikes over a long range, even in poor lighting conditions, in bad weather and at night.

In addition, they have no problem with shadows and intense sunlight; phenomena which are hard to deal with when using regular cameras!

Another important reason the city chose the thermal cameras is because they remove the privacy issues associated with traditional visible-light cameras. Although thermal cameras provide enough detail to know the type of vehicle (FLIR ThermiCam 2 collects data about 5 different vehicle classes), they cannot see faces or license plates.


The 2000 thermal cameras installed across Hamburg will help traffic authorities to forecast traffic, reduce congestion, and make smarter decisions on roadworks or traffic diversions. The city expects that these efforts to reduce congestion will lead to less idling traffic, and in turn help improve air quality. This is important because the national German government has adopted the EU’s Clean Air initiative, which lays out stringent guidelines for improving air quality in German cities over the next decade.


  1. Improving air quality by decreasing vehicle idling time leading to a reduction in traffic pollution
  2. Cost savings and increased efficiency by digitizing bike counting.
  3. The cameras help the traffic controllers to adjust signals in (near) real-time depending on how busy the roads are, reducing traffic build up.
  4. The huge volume of traffic data collected and analysed by FLIR helps traffic managers to improve their long-term planning and reduce road blockages.

Something Unique

The city has launched 60+ smart city initiatives to address their mobility and sustainability challenges!

Who Should Consider?

Smart city officials and traffic planners who are looking to optimize traffic flow and increase efficiency in their city or town.

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