It often feels like traffic moves painfully slowly at intersections. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, intersections are also the site of a disproportionate number of car accidents. NHTSA data shows that nearly 40 percent of all car crashes in 2008 happened at intersections. Researchers are now looking at ways to make traveling through intersections faster and safer through the use of computerized traffic managers. The new technology could be used in conjunction with autonomous cars to drastically shorten drive times and make motor vehicle travel safer.
The idea behind a computerized traffic management system would be to eliminate unnecessary delays. Vehicles would be equipped with communication devices that would relay information concerning speed and direction to the device. The systems would direct vehicles so they could pass safely through most intersections without stopping. One research team found that such a system could reduce the delays caused by intersections by up to 90 percent. That would, in turn, reduce fuel consumptions by up to 45 percent.
Autonomous cars would not necessarily be required for such systems to function. While robotic cars are being tested by several major auto manufacturers, it is unclear when, if ever, they will become the norm on American roadways. The intersection control systems could relay instructions to a human driver to inform them of the most efficient method of moving through an intersection.
Intersections force drivers to make many decisions. The confusion or distraction involved in bringing multiple vehicles to such an impasse clearly contributes heavily to the elevated accident levels. Any system that could reduce or eliminate these deadly interactions could save thousands of lives every year.
Source: Txchnologist, “Robots Declare War on Red Lights,” by Michael Keller, 17 January 2013