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The Internet Transportation Science

Avoiding Red Lights By Booking Ahead 299

Posted by Soulskill
from the might-get-bumped-if-they-overbook dept.
RedEaredSlider writes "Peter Stone, associate professor of computer science at the University of Texas at Austin, has presented an idea at the AAAS meeting today for managing intersections: a computer in a car calls ahead to the nearest intersection it is headed towards, and says it will arrive at a given time. The intersection checks to see if anyone else is arriving then, and if the slot is open, it tells the car to proceed. If it isn't, it tells the car that the car remains responsible for slowing down or stopping. He says that even with only a few connected cars, the system still works, even if the benefits are still only to those who have the connected vehicles."
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Avoiding Red Lights By Booking Ahead

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  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday February 18, 2012 @07:50PM (#39088847)

    ...before arriving at the light? How far ahead are they "booking" a slot? How long until the slot becomes available if the car with the reservation isn't going to arrive. This really only sounds useful in more rural areas. I can't see a city with lights on every block being able to implement this technology with any kind of efficiency.

    • by kermyt (99494) on Saturday February 18, 2012 @07:53PM (#39088871) Homepage
      sure during peak hours this in not great for urban traffic but off peak times it would still be very feasible. It's about time Traffic and traffic control started communicating in a smart way. This sort of tech is all precursor to auto drive cars.
      • This sort of tech is all precursor to auto drive cars.

        Even before that, you can get excellent features like a heads up display that will tell you how fast to drive to hit all the lights green. "You are driving 43MPH. Accelerate to 47MPH and you will reach the intersection before the other car and the light will be green" etc.

        • There are two downtown streets in my home city that are calibrated to provide a steady green once you get past a certain cross street. You can only clear all of the coordinated lights if you travel at least 40 MPH, but the speed limit is 30 MPH. It's a gold mine for the police department.
          • I'd never get a ticket there - because I drive the speed limit. The only reason the gold mine exists is because people are stupid, not because of the calibration of the lights.

            • by mjwx (966435)

              I'd never get a ticket there - because I drive the speed limit. The only reason the gold mine exists is because people are stupid, not because of the calibration of the lights.

              This,

              In the (Australian) state I live in, 75% of revenue from speed cameras goes to the Road Trauma Trust Fund, which is used to build and maintain roads. Realistically that money has to come from somewhere otherwise roads end up in disrepair, if not fines then it will end up coming out of tax. So speed camera's are not revenue raisers as much as tax minimisation for people smart enough not to speed.

              As of July this year, that number goes from 75% to 100%

      • This sort of tech is all precursor to auto drive cars.

        Not it's not. Auto driving cars would need to be able to coexist with normal cars and normal infrastructure before they could be widely used, so something like this is distinctly not a precursor.

        In addition, if the cars couldn't drive in normal traffic themselves, then someone would be able to hack the signal and tell every car approaching the intersection that they don't have to stop. Unless the car is still able to see the status of the light and the status of the cross traffic, this is too dangerous t

    • by todrules (882424)
      If this could even slightly help the problem of just sitting at red lights when there's no other traffic around, I'm all for it. I absolutely loathe the "dumb, mindless" traffic signals that plague our streets. I waste entirely too much time (and gas) just sitting at red lights when there's no other traffic around. And, no, I don't live in a rural area.
      • What kind of non-rural area do you live in where there's no traffic? Even at 4 a.m. there's some cars moving around.

        Plus, don't most lights go to flashing yellow (= 4 way stop) at off-peak times?

        But the simplest solution is some kind of directional light sensor that picks up headlights of approaching vehicles.

        • by todrules (882424)

          What kind of non-rural area do you live in where there's no traffic?

          North Atlanta, and, yes, there are side streets where there's only traffic in rush hour but pretty dead on the off-times. And, of course, because of the spike in traffic, there needs to be traffic lights. Unfortunately, they were built decades ago and not improved upon since then, so most are just on timers, which means that you just sit there until the light cycles.

          Plus, don't most lights go to flashing yellow (= 4 way stop) at off-peak times?

          Not the light right where I live. It never goes to flashing yellow. I typically spend 2-3 minutes at that light to turn left anytime I decide t

        • by pclminion (145572)
          Flashing RED is a four way stop. Flashing yellow just means "pay attention to this intersection as you move through it." Please don't tell me you stop at flashing yellow lights...
  • Roundabouts (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward

    Or you could just go with the simple solution and use roundabouts.

    • by topham (32406) on Saturday February 18, 2012 @07:55PM (#39088905) Homepage

      Tell that to the people in my neighbourhood who don't have a clue how to deal with a roundabout.

      • by ColdWetDog (752185) on Saturday February 18, 2012 @08:30PM (#39089213) Homepage

        Scary, isn't it. We had a roundabout put in one of our major intersections about a year ago (to much wailing and rending of garments). Perhaps 90% of drivers picked it up in the first few weeks. The other 10%, well, all I can say it's a shame that speeds are so low that we'll never get rid of them via traffic accidents. We just have to find some better way.

        Nobody really liked my idea of putting forks in some power outlets to see who would pull them out.

    • by icebike (68054) *

      Or you could just go with the simple solution and use roundabouts.

      The simple solution isn't that simple when you take the time to actually look at a map sometime. (Go ahead, try it, we will wait...) [google.com]

      Rebuilding every intersection that has stoplights to have roundabouts doesn't work, and can't be afforded, even in those countries where roundabouts are common. Oh, wait, that would be NOWHERE. Even in the EU where everyone sings the praises of Roundabouts they are RARE.

      • Even in the EU where everyone sings the praises of Roundabouts they are RARE.

        Half of all the roundabouts in the world are in France.

      • Roundabouts are extremely common here in Portugal. One of our cities has alone 35 of them. I doubt there are many places where you can drive 20km without going through one.

    • by Nimey (114278)

      People gripe about how hard roundabouts are to use, and I don't see it at all. Maybe it helps that the local ones were laid out intelligently so there's obviously only one way to go in - the entrances are canted to the right so that even the biggest idiot doesn't try to enter to the left.

      It was a rare bit of sanity from MoDOT.

  • by jayveekay (735967) on Saturday February 18, 2012 @07:53PM (#39088883)

    There are induction loops (metal dectors) buried in the pavement that tell the traffic lights about approaching cars. When my car passes over the loop it is telling the traffic signal at the intersection that I will be arriving within 10 seconds. If there is no cross traffic the light tells me to proceed by changing to green (or remaining green).

    • by icebike (68054) *

      Yeah, that works at like 3% of intersections in most big cities. The older the city, the less likely it is that you will find this. They may have the loops, but that doesn't always mean they will alter the clock for you. I've sat on loops with ZERO traffic coming from any direction and had the signals march thru their normal pattern. In many places the loops actually do nothing.

      • by dgatwood (11270)

        Oh, they do something... just not at the time of day that you're driving. Try driving at three or four in the morning some time, and you'll see just how well those sensors work.

        What this professor proposes is basically a massively scaled-down version of what I've been proposing for years. Unfortunately, that scaled-down nature of the proposal makes it a lot less useful in practice. To do traffic optimization well, you really need automated vehicles so that people register their destinations with a centra

        • Sorry, but nothing could ever go wrong with such a system, could it?

          If you haven't read about the Denver Airport baggage handling system, you should.

          I'm confident that I could design a working system such as you are describing, or the Denver baggage system for that matter, if I were "king of the project" and everybody had the good sense to do as I told them to. But, massively expensive projects like those inevitably suffer political pressures and I don't think I would even accept the position of lead desig

      • by Nemyst (1383049)

        The problem's not that the loops aren't used, it's that the lights were designed with specific restrictions in addition to the induction loops.

        One of the intersections I pass through twice every day is an excellent example: it's a T-junction with the top of the T being a big boulevard whereas the vertical line is just a side-street. The lights are programmed so that they will only switch for the vertical when there's somebody waiting there. However, in addition to this, the lights also have an integrated ti

    • Where do you see these 10 seconds ahead of an intersection? I only see them at the intersection. If these where put further away a simple computer would be able to evaluate the quantity of traffic in every direction and change the signal accordingly. As I see it now, I must pull up and stop at an intersection before I am detected.
    • by rrohbeck (944847) on Saturday February 18, 2012 @08:43PM (#39089333)

      And they often don't detect motorcycles so you stand at a red light for a few minutes without crosstraffic until you decide to go ahead against the red light.

  • by icebike (68054) * on Saturday February 18, 2012 @07:53PM (#39088885)

    Any time you are driving on surface streets (hate that term), you soon learn to "drive the stop-lights" by looking ahead a block or two. Its
    not that hard, and even when you can't see the lights driving just about the speed limit will be close enough to get you 5 greens out of 6 tries.

    That being said, anything that can guarantee more greens is welcome, but putting it in cars seems the wrong approach. If the stop lights just
    talked to each other you would have enough info. When Stoplight A can't clear its queue in the allotted green, you can pretty much bet stoplight B won't be able to do so when that slug of cars reaches it.

    In most cases the problem is dumb signals, hold overs from the Pleistocene, with no attempt to make traffic efficient.

  • Car? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by stms (1132653) on Saturday February 18, 2012 @07:54PM (#39088891)

    Why not just use smart phones it'd be just as simple to attach the correct sensor or it may be able to use the gps most of them already have.

    • by exploder (196936)

      I don't think the smartphone exists that has both a GPS reliable enough for this and a battery that allows it to be on all the time. I will buy that phone when it does exist.

      • by stms (1132653)

        I wasn't sure if the GPS was reliable enough thats why I used the word "may". You could simply plug it into a car charger for the battery issue.

  • Green lights all the way with my greenlightduino.

  • by ichthus (72442) on Saturday February 18, 2012 @08:01PM (#39088953) Homepage
    Yes! It is the year 2012, and our traffic lights are still running on timers. They're stupid, they waste time and fuel needlessly... they need to go. We have computers that can understand the spoken word, read the written word, and do whatever the hell it is that Kinect does. Our traffic semaphores should be far more intelligent than they are. I think I'd prefer something more along the lines of computer vision than and RF announcement -- for privacy reasons, but at least there's technology in the works.
    • by 0123456 (636235)

      Yes! It is the year 2012, and our traffic lights are still running on timers. They're stupid, they waste time and fuel needlessly... they need to go. We have computers that can understand the spoken word, read the written word, and do whatever the hell it is that Kinect does. Our traffic semaphores should be far more intelligent than they are. I think I'd prefer something more along the lines of computer vision than and RF announcement -- for privacy reasons, but at least there's technology in the works.

      Or, as someone suggested up above, you could just rip them out and install roundabouts.

      • by drinkypoo (153816)

        Or, as someone suggested up above, you could just rip them out and install roundabouts.

        Ah yes, "just" rip out a working system for something inefficient at the best of times. Why aren't you in government, calling the shots?

        • by Rennt (582550)
          If the system was working we wouldn't be having this discussion now, would we?
          • by drinkypoo (153816)

            The system works as well as it's ever going to because if you start dicking around with the lights for smart vehicles then it messes with the perceptions of the other drivers, and meanwhile, the solution is self-driving cars, which we have already, and it's called trains. (Or in between, PRT.)

        • by 0123456 (636235)

          Ah yes, "just" rip out a working system for something inefficient at the best of times. Why aren't you in government, calling the shots?

          Uh, so you think we should add a complex computer control system to every traffic light rather than rip it out and put a pile of dirt in the middle of the road for people to drive around?

          Heck, you don't even need that, a lot of British roundabouts are just a painted circle on the road.

  • by 93 Escort Wagon (326346) on Saturday February 18, 2012 @08:09PM (#39089019)

    But it would seem like the unconnected vehicles - which would probably be the vast majority of traffic around these lights - would be impacted adversely. It's not as if it's a situation where connected vehicles benefit while the impact to others is neutral.

    This just seems like another concept designed to benefit a privileged few at the expense of the unwashed masses.

  • This is one of those ideas that only works if few people do it. Like not getting kids vaccinated. Or super-couponing to get $300 of groceries for $10.
  • I thought it meant if the light turns yellow, you book it(speed up) so you avoid the red light!
  • by subreality (157447) on Saturday February 18, 2012 @08:23PM (#39089149)

    If the light doesn't have a slot knows there will be one available just a bit later, the light can signal the car to coast down from 45MPH to 35MPH, arriving just a bit later. By doing so it reduces the energy lost into the brakes and the car ends up coasting through the intersection on the green light instead of stopping and then having to restart just a few seconds later.

    You can do this manually by paying attention to what's going on in the next several stoplights. It saves gas and brake wear. It's kind of nice just cruising along and hitting all the lights. Getting feedback from the light would make it much more effective.

    Unfortunately it also drives some drivers crazy. They can't stand it that I'm going 35MPH in a 45MPH zone and go racing past... Just to end up stopped at a stoplight which then turns green a few seconds later and I go drifting on past. And still they don't get it.

    • by rrohbeck (944847)

      Sometimes you have two of those morons and one changes into your lane, forcing you to stop. Happens to me all the time.

    • by rust627 (1072296)

      In Thailand, Many intersections have a large clock indicating how long is left for the green light and then how long for the red light, It seems to work pretty well, if this was combined with a remote sensor system (the clock kicks in when the sensor kicks in , if you don't see a clock then the lights stay the same), I think it would pretty much solve all the "what if's" that most people are asking
      except for who to sue, but that is probably why america does not have these clocks, because someone is scared t

  • by WindBourne (631190) on Saturday February 18, 2012 @08:27PM (#39089177) Journal
    By coming up with a system to retro-fit into current cars, that would add not just intersection negotiation, but show speed limits (which COULD then vary depending on conditions, time of day, etc), give info about traffic, etc. The advantage of this, is that doing simple speed limits will not entire too many. HOWEVER, the ability to continue through an intersection, combined with getting other info, would actually encourage ppl to buy this system. Another advantage of this, is that it can provide information back to the police, etc: cars are moving, but stopped at one intersection. Why is that? Becomes a reason to divert a squad assuming that one is close and not busy.
  • ...to help me find red-light districts by booking ahead?
  • by RonVNX (55322) on Saturday February 18, 2012 @08:44PM (#39089337)

    Perhaps things are different in Texas, but where I live the majority of traffic lights and stop signs are installed for the express purpose of impeding the flow of traffic. Trying to sell them a sensible system to improve traffic flow, reduce pollution and ticketable offenses is the last thing they'd be interested in.

    • Only if there is war on cars. We know that to be the case in San Fran. Downtown Austin is looking to emulate them through preferential treatment to cyclists.

      It's fucking retarded. Try walking outside high noon in August in this city. Your face will melt off and your sneakers will turn into a puddle of gummy ooze.

      • by pclminion (145572) on Saturday February 18, 2012 @09:42PM (#39089697)

        It's fucking retarded. Try walking outside high noon in August in this city. Your face will melt off and your sneakers will turn into a puddle of gummy ooze.

        If you actually went out in that weather regularly maybe you'd acclimatize to it. Why live in perpetual war with your environment?

        • Because comfort increases productivity. While you can get used to the discomfort to a lesser extent, the human body will never function optimally in environmental extremes.

          Take Houston, TX and Shanghai China for example. Two of the largest cities with the highest heat and humidity index in the summer time. The white collar producing GDP wouldn't be where it's at without the invention of air conditioning.

          About the only major city with perfect outdoor weather year round is Los Angeles. Cars hardly age and the

  • This is more like frantic efforts to find a use for a marginal technology.

    Cameras on traffic lights are used for this now. These replace the old induction loops. The cameras currently just look at rectangular areas to see if they have a car in them [autoscope.com]. Usually, a few rectangles are defined for each lane, to get a rough count of the number of cars waiting. Enhancing that technology to notice distant approaching cards, estimating their speed and arrival time, and adjusting signals accordingly, is a logical n

    • Yes, but that system cannot be used to track a particular individual's car, whereas this system could (if the car is talking to the traffic light, what other devices is it talking to?).
      The question I have is this, what effect does this have on the travel time of the not-connected cars. My expectation is that even if the system did not need to, it would make things worse for cars that are not connected. Either it would be inherent in the system, or the system would be programmed to that affect (maybe not at
  • You mean in PRECISELY the same way that temporary traffic lights have worked for decades? A motion sensor on the light picks up cars a hundred metres away and works the same system? And it doesn't require new hardware in cars, RF communication, or professors. It's there, it works, you're welcome.
  • His idea presumes that the city traffic engineers care at all that people are wasting time sitting at stop lights. For the most part, they don't.

    In the few cities where they actually care, there's no problem to be solved because they've already synch'd the lights to optimize traffic flow.

  • would be to monitor approaching traffic and turn ALL directions red when an approaching vehicle is not reducing it's speed. Of course, Idiots would use this as a excuse to blow lights. So Again, Fail.
  • I live in the suburbs of the suburbs of a major metropolitan area. My commute home from work is about 15 miles. On a good night, it takes 35 minutes. On a shitty one, it takes an hour.

    So, when all the fucking traffic is going in one direction, why the fuck does it still have to slow down to ten miles an hour on a road where the speed limit is 55?

    If you can't solve the gross case of "get everyone outside the city as fast as fucking possible" then the problem of "do I have to wait one minute to make a l
  • by __Paul__ (1570) on Sunday February 19, 2012 @12:08AM (#39090489) Homepage

    ...laissez faire capitalist groups lobby to have the system modified so that those with the most money can buy slots at the traffic light.

  • by Terje Mathisen (128806) on Sunday February 19, 2012 @05:00AM (#39091173)

    ...but only for public transport!

    My wife worked for 9 years optimizing public transport in Oslo, Norway.

    One of the key items behind a significant speedup for both buses and trams was a system where each vehicle would signal ahead a given distance before arriving at an intersection, again as it entered, and finally as it left. If you visit Oslo and sit up front in a bus or tram you can see the visual feedback the driver gets: A single white LED mounted near the top of the traffic signal will light up, either blinking or in a steady state.

    There is (of course) a web site and a mobile app which will give you real-time information about any given bus/tram/line/stop, as well as rolling displays at all major stops that show the same info.

    http://trafikanten.no/ [trafikanten.no] and http://m.trafikanten.no/ [trafikanten.no]

    Terje

  • by tomhath (637240) on Sunday February 19, 2012 @02:43PM (#39093931)
    Drivers in most Asian (and many European) don't need wimpy traffic signals [youtube.com]. Of course, Europeans don't always get it right [youtube.com]

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