Green Lights All the Way

It’s green lights all the way baby in parts of Pittsburgh due to the implementation of a decentralized traffic system overseen by a Carnegie Mellon robotics professor.

The adaptive traffic control signal system from Surtrac uses a combination of traffic theory and artificial intelligence to follow traffic flow on a real-time basis.

The signals at intersections are controlled by a camera and computer system that watches the traffic coming from every direction, said Stephen F. Smith, research professor and director of the Intelligent Coordination and Logistics Laboratory in the Robotics Institute at Carnegie Mellon.

“It sets a phase system for green lights, and sends the information to other intersections,” said Smith, who recently presented his findings at the 9th University Transportation Center Spotlight Conference in Washington, D.C. organized by the Transportation Research Board.

The system has been installed at 50 intersections in Pittsburgh’s East End neighborhood. Since it began in 2012, the project has cut travel time by 24 percent and waiting time by 42 percent, according to office of the Pittsburgh mayor.

That efficiency has led to a 21 percent reduction in emissions, said Smith who leads Rapid Flow Technologies, a Carnegie Mellon spin off. The university owns a piece of Rapid Flow as it seeks to commercialize Surtrac.

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