Almost all drivers these days have lived through the frustration of waiting for a traffic signal that seemed to be timed just to stop their vehicle, and once their vehicle was stopped there was no other traffic to be seen. This occurrence is very frustrating for drivers and makes one wonder what the logic was in designing such an inefficient system. What’s more, many useless traffic stops wastes fuel and contributes to climate change through increased emissions while driving. While waiting through a meaningless red light is far from rare, efforts to improve flow through traffic lights has just begun to catch up with the 21st century. Most traffic lights these days are not considered “smart” lights, otherwise known as adaptive traffic control technology. This type of technology determined the length of a traffic light based upon the amount of traffic at an intersection. While these adaptive traffic lights are helpful in controlling traffic congestion, they can still be improved upon with new technology. That’s what RapidFlow and NoTraffic, two startup companies, plan to do with their traffic lights that are able to not only adapt to traffic amounts at intersections, but link intersections together in order to communicate the best traffic patterns possible. New technology includes the ability to distinguish between types of traffic, for one. For example, vehicle traffic versus pedestrian traffic. In some areas, where pedestrian traffic is heavy, it is important to control vehicular traffic to allow walkways to remain safe. In other areas, types of vehicle traffic will determine the intersection traffic light patterns, such as when buses, semis, and other large, gas guzzling vehicles are present. The ability to distinguish between types of traffic will be accomplished by smart sensors at the intersections, and these sensors will use artificial intelligence to make determinations about the best traffic flow. In addition to this, new traffic signals will be linked through the digital “cloud” to communicate with each other, and share traffic related information. The biggest obstacle with all of this new technology will likely be the cost to implement. Many cash-strapped cities will not have the budget to completely overhaul their traffic lights to use this new technology. Hopefully the future will bring the prices down so that it can be implemented in more areas.
-taken from www.sae.org