SANTA FE, N.M., Sept. 17 (UPI) — Traffic jams could be reduced if traffic signals responded to cars and not the other way around, U.S. researchers say.
Researchers at the Santa Fe Institute say the new approach would have traffic lights reacting in real time to traffic flow, rather than restricting drivers to the control of rigidly timed signals, Sciencenews.org reported Friday.
By measuring the flow of vehicles in and out of intersections and coordinating lights with only their nearest neighbors, a system-wide smoothness would emerge, the researchers say.
An ultimate goal in traffic flow principles is “the green wave,” the consecutive run of greens that allows groups of vehicles to move smoothly through intersection after intersection.
When that happens, no drivers have to wait very long and sections of road don’t become so filled with cars that there’s no room for entering vehicles when the light does go green.
Traffic lights usually operate on an “optimal” cycle that maximizes the flow of traffic expected for particular times of day, such as rush hour.
But even for a typical time on a typical day, variation in the number of cars at each light and the direction each car takes leaving an intersection can cause roads to back up, researchers say.
In the proposed system, two sensors at each intersection would measure incoming and outgoing traffic flow, and lights would be coordinated with every neighboring light, so that one light can alert the next, “Hey, heavy load coming through.”
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