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Smart Traffic Lights Are Coming To an Intersection Near You

Posted by on February 3, 2019 in News Flash with 0 Comments

How many times have you been in a rush, only to stop at a red light when there aren't any cars going the other direction? This common frustration happens to millions of drivers every day. Let’s face it, traffic signals are totally outdated, with technology that hasn't changed much in over 40 years.

People Spend way too Many Hours Stuck in Traffic

Did you know commuters spend a total of over 8 billion hours in traffic per year? If you’re used to the daily grind, then brakes, honks, and engine revs are familiar sounds to you. Will there ever be an end to this monotony? Stephen Smith and other leading engineers may be able to help. 

Carnegie Mellon University robotics professor, Stephen Smith believes that he can program traffic lights to react to traffic conditions using artificial intelligence (AI) in real time. This means that travel time can be reduced by almost a quarter of what it is now. Plus, it helps cars keep from braking and idling so much.

Another benefit from this new technology is it will save lives. According to, smart traffic lights could save hundreds of lives each year by better routing traffic. This new technology could also lower insurance rates, as traffic accidents will be reduced.

AI infused traffic signals can change the landscape of the American commute. Several tests in Pittsburgh, led by professor Smith, were so successful, he received further funding to continue the project. Since Rapid Flow Technologies was developed more than 150 intersections in Pittsburgh have been fitted with this AI technology, to help manage traffic and intersections more efficiently.

How Exactly Do Smart Traffic Lights Work?

Using this advanced artificial intelligence-driven technology, smart traffic lights will be able to decide independently whether to turn red or green. Intersections will watch traffic approaching and will be able to instantly determine how to best schedule traffic flow. They will then relay this information to another intersection along the way, which can then coordinate the schedule in real time. 

So far, Rapid Flow has only concentrated on the main artery intersections, making sure that each light turns green as the traffic approaches. This has helped reduce idle time by over 40%, and brake time by 30%.

Not only can these street lights coordinate schedules with each other, but they can change their schedules over time. They want to be as live and fluid as real traffic, helping everyone get home faster and without as much wear and tear on the car. 

These lights have worked wonders in predicting the dominant flow of traffic, using a system to compute new plans in less than a half second. Rapid Flow’s goal is to make reaction time as fast as traffic.

Traffic lights not only change colors but will now be able to make smart predictions. The communication time between different intersections with AI is lightning fast. Over time, they can predict what’s going to happen in the next two to five minutes, thus greatly improving traffic flow and reducing jams.

What Does This Mean for The Future?

In the future, smart traffic light technology is going to be introduced to many cities across the United States. The ultimate goal is to make the technology universal, all over the world. The goal is to improve overall quality of life for commuters who spend endless hours on the road. 

With three full-time employees, Rapid Flow is looking to expand its staff, which will help them meet their goals more quickly. Their drive and passion is to make driving more efficient, and safer everyone. Being able to reduce frustrations faced on the road is a huge need and will greatly reduce the stress of commuters.

Cars are Now Being Equipped with Rapid Flow Technology

A second project has been implemented by Rapid Flow as well. They are now equipping vehicles with radios that use real-time signals to communicate with smart traffic lights. Information is relayed in real time and helps more accurately predict the flow of traffic.

These radios can send messages every couple of seconds to the traffic lights. This can stop them from turning red or green, or change the plan altogether.

This means that smart signal technology will change the landscape of intersections forever. Pittsburgh already uses these communication radios in over 150 intersections, helping traffic more quickly and shaving off precious commute minutes.

Currently, Rapid Flow is also running simulations for this new technology. It will let vehicles with these radios share their route and intended itinerary with all smart intersections in the area. This helps vehicles move about 25% faster through traffic, making commuting a little more tolerable.

Finally, there is a way to start breaking apart the daily grind that puts commuters in a bad mood. The U.S. Census Bureau counted over 11 million Americans who commute more than an hour to their job each way. Half a million Americans commute for 90 minutes or more.

More time on the road means more money spent on gasoline. Why not reduce transportation costs and make things more efficient for everybody? The more people who get equipped with this smart technology, the better time they will have navigating through traffic. Lights will be able to accurately guess where you’re going and turn green, yellow or red based on the flow of traffic. This means in the near future, lights won't be turning green at midnight, when there are no vehicles moving in that direction. 

We have Smith to thank for this innovative technology that will certainly make commuting a little less stressful.

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