MIT Unveils An Intelligent Way To Get Rid Of Traffic Lights

Lisa Carley

MIT is getting ready for the future of intelligent and improved driving by developing intersections which will no longer need traffic lights to conduct the flow of vehicles through cities.

Tech Times reports researchers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) are making traffic lights a thing of the past by developing a model in which sensors will fit onto cars that will effectively tell the car when to stop and go in the city.

The vehicles would use the sensors to communicate with other cars to determine how far away they are from one another. This is especially helpful at four-way intersections where cars must stay so far away from one another to remain safe, but keep moving at a pace in order to save time and ease vehicle congestion, according to the study by MIT and others.

Paolo Santi, who is a researcher in the SENSEable City Lab, a member of the Italian National Research Council, and co-author of the study, says consistency in speed is better than fast speed. Otherwise everyone will race to get to the intersection and a traffic jam will occur.

"You want the car to use the intersection for the shortest possible time. If you need to slow down the vehicles because there is a lot of traffic, you slow them down early in the road, so they approach the intersection at slow speed, but then when they cross, you use the best speed."

"An intersection is a difficult place, because you have two flows competing for the same piece of real estate. On the other hand, if a system has advanced technology and lacks traffic lights, it moves control from the [traffic] flow level to the vehicle level. Doing that, you can create a system that is much more efficient, because then you can make sure the vehicles get to the intersection exactly when they have a slot," Ratti explained.

The sensors would fit on most cars that are made these days, according to the study by MIT. Many cars will be connected to the Internet in the future, and these cars would have the capability to communicate with one another. Eventually, traffic lights would become obsolete because they would no longer be of use to cars which could communicate with one another.

The system researched by MIT and others will need sensors placed inside the cars and a communication device placed at the intersection. The whole system would be able to determine which way the vehicle is going, and then the system will place the car with other cars going the same way. MIT says the system would limit the speed and distance between vehicles to ensure the safety and efficiency of cars passing through the intersection.

MIT acknowledges it will be a long time before people see the results of the MIT intersection solution. Self-autonomous cars would work best with MIT's system, and a dramatic change of the current infrastructure would take years to accomplish.

[Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images]