A system of self-organizing traffic lights could reduce congestion, according to European researchers. The key is allowing lights to switch from green to red in a decentralized, chaotic way, instead of following a regular programmed pattern.
Though you might curse them at every red light, city planners do try to synchronize traffic signals to improve flow, even relying on supercomputers to design the optimal patterns. Lights stay green longer during peak traffic hours, and computer models help prioritize public transit. But variables like pedestrians in crosswalks, large crowds and vehicle wrecks can throw a carefully designed system out of whack, leading to annoying and pollution-causing traffic jams.
Stefan Lämmer, a professor at Dresden University of Technology in Germany, and Dirk Helbing, a professor in Zurich, Switzerland, who works with the Santa Fe Institute in New Mexico, say a self-organizing system would work better.
They started by modeling traffic as if it were a fluid, comparing intersections to a network of pipes. Then they gave each traffic signal a sensor that provides information about traffic at a given moment. Computer chips in the lights calculate the expected flow of vehicles, and determine how long the lights should stay green.
But this "jungle principle" of every light for itself does not result in harmony, the researchers said. If each traffic light responds to its immediate demands, then all the lights will just react to the traffic coming from nearby intersections, which defeats the purpose of a smart network.
The solution is a decentralized approach that lets the traffic lights work together by figuring out how changes at each individual intersection would affect the entire system. Instead of being stymied by natural fluctuations in traffic, the system takes advantage of them, using random gaps to help improve traffic flow. Traffic lights could request green time only when there is a definite demand for them, the researchers write. This acyclic approach could eliminate the particularly annoying problem of sitting at a red light while there's no traffic.
Lämmer and Helbing tested tested their algorithms in a computer-simulated version of the city center of Dresden, and found delay times could be reduced from 10 to 30 percent. Their paper doesn't mention road rage, but if the system works, it's safe to assume reductions there, too.
Oh great more chaos that's all we need!
Lights have to be timed so chaos won't work unless lights talk to themselves miles and miles away and work out best scheme. For sure many lights go stupidly with 30 seconds or more with NO traffic while the perpendicular lanes are backed up for miles. Happens everywhere. Maybe it could help cut down on this and save gas but only if they do things reasonably EXPECTED or your going to have people jamming on the brakes suddenly when things are 'different' than expectations. And that can result in MORE people getting hurt.
excellent technique: reducing congestion by reducing human life. just give them a mind of their own and they develop emotions such as anger, develop their own traffic light weapons and kill us all.
silly monkeys give them thumbs they forge a blade and where theres one they're bound to divide it- right in two
I'm not convinced this will work. When the lights go out and they put a policeman there to direct traffic you can't argue that they are intelligently directing traffic, but in those cases I have mostly felt that traffic is moving slower then when the traffic lights are working.
they already do this in fort lauderdale fl. get with it everyone, its a blessing to drive there. you dont waste time sitting at red lights when no one else is on the road. its a beautiful thing!
Reminds me of the elevators in the hitchhiker's guide to the galaxy.
http://traffic-light-restoration.blogspot.com/ to fix traffic lights