MIT Researchers Come Up with Traffic Lights-Free Intersections

lightTraffic 1 photo
Photo: Screenshot from YouTube
How many times have you just sat at a red light, waiting for absolutely nobody to pass for the simple reason that the roads were empty? Nothing coming from the left, nothing coming from the right and definitely nothing coming from the front. And yet you had to wait, engine running (presuming your car doesn't have a start/stop function) and time flying away. But what can you do? Those are the rules and you would very much like to keep hold of your driver's license, so you obey.
Most countries now have the "free right turn on red" policy, which does help a lot with making the traffic more fluid, but it does nothing to help those who want to go straight or left. And as annoying as the traffic lights sometimes are, removing them would turn the streets into veritable war zones. Turning right would probably be the only maneuver that you could actually make without totaling your car.

However, there is hope. Some MIT researchers realized that the only reason we need traffic lights is because the cars have a bunch of unpredictable mammals behind their wheels. Replace them with interconnected AIs, and you've got yourself a system that can self-regulate with ease and without the use of traffic lights.

While this makes perfect sense in a world where the cars don't need us anymore and can drive themselves, we do have one problem with this system (called lightTraffic): as if sitting around in a car that moves by itself weren't enough, how is charging at full speed towards an intersection that has no lights and no signs going to help?

Well, that's just something we're going to have to deal with ourselves, because the idea is very sound. For one thing, the researchers claim it would allow twice as many cars to pass through an intersection during the same period of time compared to the current traffic lights system. By using vehicle-to-vehicle and vehicle-to-infrastructure communication, the lightTraffic system makes sure all cars reach the intersection at the exact moment that allows them to pass through without stopping, making this experience a much more flowing one.

If you have the time, you can read the whole paper, but the fact of the matter is this: whether we like it or not, if we insist on using our personal cars for transportation, autonomous vehicles could be the best and only solution to our congested cities.

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About the author: Vlad Mitrache
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"Boy meets car, boy loves car, boy gets journalism degree and starts job writing and editing at a car magazine" - 5/5. (Vlad Mitrache if he was a movie)
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