Amid vast technological advancements, people still face problems with traffic jam. With vehicles able to talk to each other and the infrastructures around them, traffic lights may not be needed in the future.
Scientists at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) plan to make old fashioned traffic light obsolete. In the recent study published in the journal PLOS ONE, the study involves using sensor-laden vehicles that would communicate with each other and perform a sort of ballet around each other.
The traffic-light-free transportation design — if it will be implemented in the future — could allow twice the number of vehicles to use the streets. Based on a mathematical modeling, the study shows how high-tech cars use sensors to remain at a safe distance from each other when they move along a four-way intersection.
"An intersection is a difficult place, because you have two flows competing for the same piece of real estate," said Carlo Ratti, director of the SENSEable City Lab in MIT's Department of Urban Studies and Planning. The system will enable vehicles to move through the intersection exactly when they have a slot.
With the use of a sophisticated technology, signaling would speed up or slow down a car, depending when the need arises. This will get people to move quickly toward their destination.
"You want the car to use the intersection for the shortest possible time," said Paolo Santi, a researcher in the SENSEable City Lab who is a member of the Italian National Research Council. He adds that the system is not from vehicles moving faster but comes from creating more consistent flow at desired speed levels and vehicles will keep moving.
However, the plan would require major changes in vehicles and infrastructure since they will need an autonomous automotive technology. The stoplight-free city isn't going to be reality any time soon.
"Results theoretically show that transitioning from a traffic light system to SI has the potential of doubling capacity and significantly reducing delays. This suggests a reduction of non-linear dynamics induced by intersection bottlenecks, with positive impact on the road network," the researchers concluded.
"Such findings can provide transportation engineers and planners with crucial insights as they prepare to manage the transition towards a more intelligent transportation infrastructure in cities," they added.