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How Can In-Vehicle Virtual Traffic Lights Make Your Daily Commute Quicker?

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As urban population continues to increase in number, the city's traffic situation also becomes more frustrating. For drivers, being stuck in traffic is something that makes driving an undesirable chore.

Fortunately, a solution is now being offered by the researchers at Carnegie Mellon University. They claim that what they just learned can reduce an urban driver's commute times by up to 40 percent.

The researchers believe that today's physical traffic lights can be replaced with the virtual traffic lights technology. The latter allows drivers to see virtual traffic lights on his dashboard, which are made up of green and red arrows. The lights, which work similar to a typical street light, provide drivers with information on the safest routes they can take. The lights disappear right after the driver has made a move.

"With this technology, traffic lights will be created on demand when two cars are trying to cross this intersection, and they will be turned down as soon as we don't need it," explained Ozan Tonguz, a professor at Carnegie Mellon University and credited for helping develop the technology.

German carmaker Audi is developing a similar system known as "Traffic Light Assist," which aims to show drivers the exact distance between their car and the next red traffic light. This will help them determine a better driving pace to minimize the instances when they have to stop because of a red light.

The system works by showing a traffic light icon on the dashboard which comes with a countdown timer. The timer reads the number of seconds that will take for an upcoming red light to change into green. The whole city's electronic traffic light network is also linked with the system. There's also a built-in capacity to take note of lane changes.

According to Tonguz, virtual traffic lights actually go beyond decreasing the driver's stress levels. The technology is also an important tool in mitigating traffic congestion, decreasing the vehicle's carbon footprint and promoting a greener environment. He claims that the technology has the potential to reduce commuting in an urban area by 40 percent.

"We are giving additional life to people," said Tonguz. "Life that is wasted on the road."

Soon, the virtual traffic lights technology that would make each car on the road connected to each other will become a mandatory feature and one that will be implemented by federal regulators as part of the vehicle-to-vehicle communication program of the U.S. government.

"Our solution leverages this capability," said Tonguz. "Since cars can talk to each other, we can manage the traffic control at intersections without infrastructure-based traffic lights."

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