New technology could make traffic lights obsolete
Car manufacturer Audi recently announced a feature of their upcoming cars that informs drivers when a traffic light is about to turn red or green.
According to a report on MIT Technology Review, the new technology developed by Audi will allow cars to communicate with traffic lights to determine when a light change is about to occur. The onboard system will then display a countdown counter to prepare drivers for breaking.
The technology is seen as more of a step toward completely doing away with traffic lights altogether than a gimmick.
The current system of traffic lights on roadways and intersections is quite inefficient because it causes vehicles to stop and pile up at a stop as they wait their turn to cross. This causes congestion and pollution buildup from the idle vehicles.
A team from MIT and ETH Zurich suggests a slot-based system wherein a scheduling computer will be stationed on intersections in place of traffic lights. A car’s onboard computer will then communicate with the scheduler to prepare a slot for it in the crossing before it even reaches the turn. Self-driving cars can then adjust their speed to match the timing of the slot that the scheduling computer has prepared, negating the need to go on a standstill.
A similar system has been used in airports for years to guide airplanes as they take off and land. The systems allow for continued movement for all elements and as such no time is wasted by being idle.
While the idea is sound, the human element makes it difficult because it would take nerves of steel to zip through an intersection while narrowly missing another car making a turn or going in a perpendicular direction like a well-coordinated ballet.
For the time being, having cars that talk to traffic lights and tell drivers precisely when to stop is a step forward toward building a vehicle-to-infrastructure communication system. When the roads are eventually ruled by self-driving vehicles, the slot system could then be implemented for a more efficient commute for everyone. Alfred Bayle