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Green Light for Data-Driven Traffic Signals

The synchronization of traffic signals at crossroads, with the ebb and flow of vehicle traffic seeking seamless movement, is a largely unexplored means to relieve congestion on urban roads. Traffic signals change at fixed intervals regardless of the volume of traffic and hold up drivers at intersections.

Data feeds from sensors embedded in roads, roadside cameras, parking, public transportation, foot traffic at malls, and even related variables such as historical data of special events, weather patterns, and seasonal traffic flows, can be combined to predict the flow of traffic at each intersection. Real-time data on accidents or other unexpected events like a shooting in the city further improve the quality of predictions. The estimated benefit from the smooth flow of traffic, uninterrupted at intersections, is a reduction in congestion levels by 10%.

According to Matthew Cole, executive vice president for strategy, business development, and diversification at Cubic Transportation Systems:

“The technologies to deal with complex environments, i.e., the ecosystem of transportation, including occupancy, pedestrian traffic, parking and public transportation as well as demand management, are only starting to mature now — combining the ability to adapt signal timing to more sophisticated predictive analytics and real-time monitoring. Currently, the state-of-the-art is alternating lights in a fixed way according to the time of day. The more sophisticated versions also use sensor data of traffic queues at intersections.”

He confirmed that Los Angeles city officials are starting to look at the whole problem instead of a piecemeal approach they were taking thus far.

Continue reading on EBN sister site, UBM’s Future Cities.

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