Traffic Experiments Featured Pattern: P0921 May 2016

Author: Lucy Young

Experimental technologies are finding use in traffic management.

Abstracts in this Pattern:

Traffic management needs to evolve to produce increases in the efficiency of transportation and of urban environments in general. Researchers at the National Autonomous University of Mexico (Mexico City, Mexico) ran computer simulations that suggest the use of autonomous vehicles would improve traffic-flow efficiency only by 7% and only in severe traffic. However, the researchers also found that the use of autonomous vehicles in combination with smart traffic lights could improve traffic-flow efficiency by 200%. In the simulation, smart traffic lights monitor all streets for approaching vehicles and give priority to the streets with the most traffic. This setup requires no communication between the smart traffic lights and the autonomous vehicles (beyond the vehicles' detecting whether the lights are red or green).

Traffic lights can also see use to encourage people to choose environmentally friendly forms of transportation. For example, the City of Rotterdam in the Netherlands has installed rain sensors at downtown intersections to give cyclists priority at traffic lights when rain is falling. The sensors halve the amount of time that cyclists have to wait at traffic lights in the rain, thereby encouraging people to ride bikes instead of drive cars.

Novel uses of technology in parking management could address social issues that relate to transportation. Disability nonprofit Dislife (Moscow, Russia) has developed a system that uses hologram technology to rebuke able-bodied drivers who attempt to park their cars in parking spaces for disabled drivers. The system uses cameras to determine whether an approaching vehicle has a disabled-parking badge on its windshield. If a vehicle lacks the appropriate badge, the system projects an image of a person in a wheelchair onto a thin water-mist-saturated airstream in the parking space. The projection of the person utters phrases such as, "Please find another place to park." According to a video about the system created by Russian advertising agency Y&R FMS (WPP; London, England), more than 30% of drivers in Russia disregard the painted signs on the ground and wrongfully park in spaces for disabled drivers. Dislife hopes its system will help address that problem.