Drivers across the globe know how frustrating being stuck in traffic can be, but a solution by researchers at Carnegie Mellon University could reduce commuting times by up to 40%. Researchers are developing a virtual traffic light system, which could also lower carbon emissions and reduce accidents and congestion on the roads.
Traditional traffic lights would be replaced by an in-car display on the driver’s windscreen, displaying red and green arrows which allow the driver to see which route is the quickest and safest. Once the driver has passed through an intersection, it will disappear from the display. The new methodology could also tweak current methods of merging main and side road traffic, making the entire roadway run more efficiently.
The new technology could be another step forward in the aim of a general vehicle to vehicle (V2V) initiative, which, in effect, allows vehicles to ‘talk’ to each other. Vehicles will periodically announce their location, speed, direction and other details which can be used to monitor and direct traffic flow and minimise accidents, as well as reading virtual traffic lights.
German car maker, Audi, is also working on a system which will allow drivers to see the distance between their car and the traffic light, alongside a countdown of how long it will take for a red light to turn green. The aim of this is to determine a better driving pace and to minimise the instances the driver will actually have to stop at a red light.
Ozan Tungaz, a Carnegie researcher who helped to develop the equipment has suggested that “this technology can hit the market in most large cities around the world in 1-2 years”. However, the problem with virtual traffic lights is that every car is going to need to be equipped with a device which allows it to read the new traffic lights, and hundreds of thousands of traditional traffic lights are going to need to be upgraded. Tungaz also acknowledged that it is an “everyone is in” initiative. Old cars will either have to be destroyed or refitted to include the new technology.
There has been an argument that pursuing autonomous vehicles, such as those that are being developed by Google and other major car manufacturers, is a more viable option. Autonomous cars would have the intelligence to read traffic signals and know whether to stop or go with no decisions made by the driver.
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