AI Traffic Lights to manage traffic in Pittsburgh

Pittsburgh is testing AI traffic lights to reduce traffic, made by Surtrac. The smart traffic management system gave amazing results.

The team started implementing the AI traffic control system at 9 intersections in Pittsburgh’s East Liberty neighborhood in 2012. It later began to expand citywide and now spans 50 intersections.

The system reduced travel time by 25 percent and idling time by over 40 percent. The researchers estimate that the system cuts emissions by 21 percent. Stephen Smith, Carnegie Mellon University professor of robotics and founder of startup Surtrac, stated at the White House Frontiers Conference that Traffic congestion costs the U.S. economy $121 billion a year, mostly due to lost productivity, and produces about 25 billion kilograms of carbon dioxide emissions.

Conventional traffic lights have programmed timing, which are not updated regularly. Surtrac developed smart artificial intelligence traffic signals that adapt to the change in traffic conditions. The system relies coordinating traffic lights. Radar sensors and cameras are attached to each light detect the flow of traffic. AI algorithms then take the data and build a timing plan that according to Smith “that moves all the vehicles it knows about through the intersection in the most efficient way possible.” Smith says each signal makes its own timing decision and is not centralized.

The next step is to have the system talk to cars. The team has installed short ranged radios at 24 intersections and in the future could let drivers know of traffic conditions ahead of them or know which lights are about to change.

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