It's amazing how frustrating it can be to drive in L.A. Superhighways are jam-packed, cars crawl along in the worst rush hour of your life even though it's only 2 p.m., and yet no one rides the scary subway. Last summer, it took me two solid hours to travel 28 miles--and that was on the highway, following a route Google said should take maybe 35 minutes.
L.A. officials are trying to do better, however, and they recently finished a decades-long project to synchronize all of its traffic lights.
It took city planners 30 years to build up the system, at a cost of more than $400 million, but L.A.'s Automated Traffic Surveillance and Control system is unique in its size and scope. The New York Times reviews its highlights:
It automatically adjusts to account for issues at individual intersections, and it changes light timing to accommodate buses if they're running behind. Without the system, it takes 20 minutes on average to drive 5 miles in L.A. With the system, that drops to 17.2 minutes, according to the NYT.
It's more difficult than you might think to manage all of this. Every car, every lane and every intersection is a data point with ever-changing variables, making it a tough programming problem. L.A. developed its own software, but other cities are working with companies like IBM, which is helping Boston mine its traffic data. IBM is also developing software that can predict what drivers will do based on their driving patterns, and aggregating that information into network-wide predictions that can forecast traffic like you might forecast the weather.
Eventually, networks of connected cars will synchronize with each other as well as the lights. And they will even keep tabs on your habits to predict whether you'll contribute to gridlock: Honda, for instance, is developing technology that can warn drivers if they're likely to cause congestion, and Ford is working on in-car apps that can re-route drivers around smoggy, congested spots.
In the end, though, there's not much anyone can really do about traffic. There are only so many miles of road, and more and more cars are using it. Reducing travel times might only encourage more people to drive--they will think, "Hey, it's not so bad," and more of them will drive, and it will be bad again. Easing congestion, in L.A. or elsewhere, really needs dramatic changes to infrastructure or the way we live and work.
I could use that software in Sim city 5! lol always a traffic headache.
OH MY GOD this country needs to start implementing roundabouts. If it's necessary to spend money, spend it on changing the actual intersections by making them roundabouts. It will still cost $400 million but it will pay off in the long run by reducing electricity costs and accidents in general!
Yeah that synchronization is going to work really well after the Big One hits!
If one would consider how much society is addicted and dependent upon electricity, and the government, society would fall back to the dark ages if the electricity stays off for a month.
Exactly why we need flying cars. Besides the fact that it would just be cool, it would practically eliminate traffic jams. I remember seeing somewhere that if all of the vehicles in the worst traffic jam ever were in the air at once, you'd still be a mile away from any other one, in all directions. Because with flying cars you have 3 dimensions not just 2
Don't think so KushSmoke. Adding a third dimension doesn't simplify the problems. Your idea assumes that the vertical profile within a city is essentitally flat and even, which it is not.