Here is some good news for commuters and anyone who has a short traffic fuse. Someone has finally “built the better mousetrap” of the traffic light world, and it looks as if the days of spending over 165 hours a year sitting at red lights may be quickly going the way of the dinosaur.
In-Dash Traffic Lights
There are currently two developing ideas vying for the title of Traffic Savior. The first idea involves the elimination of traffic lights completely. Engineers would develop an in-dash system that would alert one vehicle to the presence of another. Using this advanced wireless communication technology, the system would be able to assess how much traffic is coming from any direction. Drivers who find themselves amidst the largest group of cars at an intersection would receive a green signal on their dashboards, giving them permission to proceed through the intersection. Those drivers on paths less traveled would be sent a red signal. Essentially, where the heavy traffic goes, the heavy traffic flows. Engineers working on this system will soon tackle implementation, real time simulation and detection of pedestrians and cyclists as well as a number of fail safes to prevent collisions.
The other breakthrough making the rounds in traffic circles is SMART (Systematic Monitoring of Arterial Road Traffic Signals) Signal technology. This is a system that gathers data from different points across a traffic grid for real time analysis of travel time, stops and intersection delay. Engineers monitoring this data (again, in real time) can consider preset metrics that would signify a necessary change in red light duration. For example, a traffic light that consistently hosts a line of no less than 15 cars would have its green time extended by a few seconds to allow more vehicles to pass through. Once the line shortens, the engineers would set it back to normal with the flip of a switch. This is already gaining traction as there is similar technology in play at over 100 intersections in Minnesota and California.
The Bottom Line: Sanity
With this advance in communications technology, our time spent in traffic could be cut by as much as 60%. That means we’ll suddenly have an extra half-hour a day – multiply that by 365 days a year – to spend with our families, get work done, or enjoy the hobbies and pursuits that make us truly happy. Car drivers around the world deal with commutes to work, school and the like – making this commute shorter and less stressful would be heavenly. Can you imagine if long lines of stopped cars were a thing of the past?
The Bottom Line: Economic Uplift
Aside from the ramifications on everyone’s personal lives, Americans would be saving billions at the gas pump. In addition, if the city of Toronto, Canada is any indication (where gridlock costs an estimated $10 billion annually), getting people to work faster means macro-level economic uplift as well.
The Bottom Line: Shallower Carbon Footprint
Lastly, there’s a huge environmental aspect to this technology. Spending less time in traffic means, of course, less time with the engine running, and that means less carbon emissions from our nation’s city streets. This has some saying that the Smart Traffic Light just may be the next giant leap for mankind in regard to climate control.