Traffic Lights With Artificial Intelligence Could Help Your Terrible Daily Commute

Matt Posky
by Matt Posky
traffic lights with artificial intelligence could help your terrible daily commute
With the exceptions of a horrible wreck or having a child in the car that you aren’t particularly fond of, nothing drains the enjoyment out of a drive like being stuck in rush-hour traffic. Every second of idling, waiting, and creeping along city streets is another agonizing moment where you could be enjoying a backroad or at home eating dinner.Thankfully, IEEE Spectrum reports that a team of researchers is working to solve this problem with traffic lights that know all and see all.Researchers from Carnegie Mellon University’s Robotics Institute have a startup called Surtrac that has installed traffic lights with artificial intelligence all over Pittsburgh. Surtrac — an acronym for Scalable Urban Traffic Control — collects traffic data from cameras and radar signals, allowing the network of lights to coordinate with each other to ensure flow through intersections happens as quickly as possible.The project started with nine intersections in 2012 and has grown to fifty, unbeknownst to most commuters. The startup eventually plans to implement its network across the entire city and ultimately bring the technology to other metropolitan hubs in need of silky smooth transit.Stating the case for the project, Carnegie Mellon University professor of robotics Stephen Smith told an audience at the White House Frontiers Conference that congestion costs the U.S. economy $121 billion every year and produces about 25 billion kilograms of excess carbon dioxide emissions.That’s a heap of money and pollution, although it’s probably the reduction in travel time that will get most people excited. In Pittsburgh, the AI light network reportedly reduced travel time by 25 percent and idling time by over 40 percent. That translates to more time at work, more time at home, and less time cursing your own existence while you are stuck in traffic.While other cities have complex traffic management systems, even some that adapt to changing circumstances and vehicle frequency, Surtrac is the only one where each light is responsible for its own intersection. This decentralized technique reduces the overall load on the network and makes it easier to scale up. The team has also begun working on a system to communicate directly with cars, allowing the network to notify drivers of traffic conditions in advance. It could also be used to prioritize certain types of traffic, such as emergency vehicles and city buses.There is no set date for when AI traffic lights will be exported to other U.S. cities. But they should be a welcome addition for anyone who has ever spent the better part of their commute staring at a John Kerry ’04 bumper sticker plastered on the back of a slow-moving Prius.[Image: Joisey Showaa/ Flickr ( CC BY-SA 2.0)]
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  • Tandoor Tandoor on Oct 22, 2016

    In a lot of areas. St. Louis doesn't even have basic sensors yet. After 2-3 minutes at a red with no cross traffic, the light finally changes and the green light 45 yards down the road turns red for no cross traffic. Many drivers just routinely run them.

  • Lorenzo Lorenzo on Oct 23, 2016

    I've noticed that signalized intersections move traffic better when they're flashing red in all directions than when they're working. At least the lines aren't as long, and people pay attention. America's first traffic safety "expert" William Phelps Eno detested signals and promoted the traffic circle, aka rotary, called roundabouts in the UK. He would probably have a heart attack if he saw how the Italians negotiate them today. Then again, he wouldn't be driving. He never had a license and was rich enough to employ a chauffeur.

  • Jeff S Still a nice car and I remember these very well especially in this shade of green. The headlights were vacuum controlled. I always liked the 67 thru 72 LTDs after that I found them bloated. Had a friend in college with a 2 door 71 LTD which I drove a couple of times it was a nice car.
  • John H Last week after 83 days, dealership said mine needs new engine now. They found metal in oil. Potential 8 to 9 month wait.
  • Dukeisduke An aunt and uncle of mine traded their '70 T-Bird (Beakbird) for a brand-new dark metallic green '75 LTD two-door, fully loaded. My uncle hated seat belts, so the first time I saw the car (it was so new that the '75 models had just landed at the dealerships) he proudly showed me how he'd pulled the front seat belts all the way out of their retractors, and cut the webbing with a razor blade(!).Just a year later, they traded it in for a new '76 Cadillac Coupe de Ville (they had owned a couple of Imperials in the '60s), and I imagine the Cadillac dealer took a chunk out to the trade-in, to get the front seat belts replaced.
  • CaddyDaddy Lease fodder that in 6 years will be on the 3rd owner in a poverty bound aspirational individual's backyard in a sub par neighborhood sinking into the dirt. The lending bank will not even want to repossess and take possession of this boat anchor of a toxic waste dump. This proves that EVs are not even close to being ready for prime time (let's not even talk about electrical infrastructure). EVs only exist in wildly expensive virtue signaling status-mobiles. FAIL! I know this is a Hybrid, but it's a Merc., so it will quickly die after the warranty. Show me a practical EV for the masses and I'll listen. At this time, Hybrids are about the way to go for most needing basic transportation.
  • Jeanbaptiste The bubble free dash on the R32!