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Self-Organizing Traffic Lights


map of Dresden, Germany

Researchers simulated traffic light control of 13 intersections in the city center of Dresden, Germany, including the 10 circled on this map.

Credit: Stefan Lämmer, Dirk Helbing

Researchers at TU Dresden's Institute of Transport & Economics and ETH Zurich are working to ease traffic congestion by enabling traffic lights to organize their own on-off schedules using traffic-responsive operating rules.

The researchers developed traffic lights equipped with sensors that feed information about the traffic conditions at a given moment into a computer chip, which calculates the flow of vehicles expected in the near future. The system determines how long the lights should stay green in order to clear the road. The researchers designed the system so that what happens at one set of traffic lights would effect how the others respond. The traffic lights work together in monitoring traffic to prevent big jams from forming.

Computer simulations show that lights operating this way would achieve a reduction in overall traffic times by 10 percent to 30 percent.

From ETH Zurich
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