Researchers working at Carnegie Mellon University are developing a way to reduce traffic by projecting traffic lights inside of vehicles.
With traditional systems, people on the road must watch and obey the same lights. The system works, but does not adjust itself to changing conditions.
The new system, in contrast, would use displays inside each car to direct traffic. When two cars approached an intersection in opposite directions, the system would automatically direct the cars out of each other’s way. If only one car approached the intersection, it could just keep going.
Such an adaptable and responsive form of traffic control would not only reduce the time drivers have to spend waiting at red lights, it could also improve safety and traffic flow overall. For example, the system could direct drivers away from congested areas, preventing the worst traffic jams before they start.
Researchers estimate this new technology could reduce some drivers’ commutes by as much as 40%. That could translate over weeks and months into a lot more time drivers could spend at home, relaxing with their families. By reducing idling at traffic lights and in traffic jams, these virtual traffic lights could also significantly reduce vehicle-related greenhouse gas emissions.
Obviously, the Carnegie Mellon technology would have to be installed on all cars on the road in order for the system to work. It is not something that an individual or a fleet could adopt independently.
However there are currently technologies in development that could be adopted on an individual basis while offering some of the same benefits. For example, a vehicle could communicate with a city’s traffic light system in order to tell the driver when the next light ahead is going to change. The driver could then speed up, slow down, or even detour around in order to avoid a red light.
Such developments are in the near future, but fleet tracking software can offer some of the advantages of virtual traffic control today. GPS tracking makes it possible to coordinate route changes across an entire fleet in real time. That means that if one vehicle gets trapped in a traffic jam, the fleet manager can see which team can get to the job site faster and reassign the work.
Safety analytics also offers improvements in safety, driver efficiency, and fuel efficiency by allowing managers to identify which drivers need additional training—the very same benefits that virtual traffic control promises.
See? The future has arrived.