Waiting at a long traffic light can be one of the most frustrating parts of city driving, especially if there’s no one else coming. So what if there was a way to remove traffic lights all together and not cause more traffic collisions?
Researchers at MIT think that future exists in autonomous vehicles and they’ve produced a concept video to explain it.
Working alongside the Swiss Institute of Technology (ETHZ), and the Italian National Research Council (CNR), the team says it can design an intersection-based on a slot-based management system similar to what is already used by air-traffic control.
Essentially, cars would request access to the intersection like planes have to request access to a runway. Cars are then assigned a specific time or slot to enter the intersection and correct their speed and course to ensure it meets that time.
“Traffic intersections are particularly complex spaces, because you have two flows of traffic competing for the same piece of real estate,” says Professor Carlo Ratti, director of the MIT Senseable City Lab, which initiated the study. “But a slot-based system moves the focus from the traffic flow level to the vehicle level. Ultimately, it’s a much more efficient system, because vehicles will get to an intersection exactly when there is a slot available to them.”
The video shows how this could play out in a real setting, if we assume everyone somehow has self-driving cars in the future, which is still very much up in the air.
But it’s obvious to see how this could benefit traffic flow and make roadways far more efficient. Researchers also note that it increases fuel efficiency and cuts down on greenhouse gases when cars are not idling at stop lights.
“It is important that we start looking into the impact of self-driving vehicles at the city level as soon as possible,” added Ratti. “The lifetime of today’s road infrastructure is many decades and it will certainly be impacted by the mobility disruptions brought in by new technologies.”