Should a fourth light be added to traffic signals for autonomous cars?
How do you feel about adding a fourth traffic light color to traffic lights for self-driving vehicles to help manage traffic flow?
I understand that one day a bunch of connected autonomous cars could outnumber people behind the wheel. The thing is, it would annoy me to no end if traffic lights somehow gave driverless cars an advantage over cars driven by you and me.
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A recent study was published by the Institute of Electrical and Electronic Engineersadvocate for just that.
Simulations are being run and researchers soon realize that a fourth traffic light could improve travel time at intersections and reduce fuel consumption.
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How would a fourth traffic light work?
Known as the “white phase,” the concept would essentially introduce a new traffic light so drivers on the road know what to do around autonomous vehicles or AVs.
The red, yellow and green traffic lights would all remain the same and have the same meaning of stop, be careful and yield, and it is safe to proceed.
With the extra white light added, human drivers get a signal to follow the car in front of them.
CAVs, also known as connected autonomous vehicles, can communicate wirelessly with each other and with the computer that controls the traffic light.
So if there are many driverless cars in an intersection at the same time, they can activate the white light. That would force the human drivers behind self-driving cars. You should just follow the self-driving car in front of you (if they stop, you stop. If they go, you go). This would help self-driving cars coordinate traffic across the intersection more efficiently.
If there are more human drivers on the road than AVs in any part of the study, the traffic light may revert to the normal three-light style. Hey thanks.
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Is this a safe concept?
The concept has improved significantly since it was first introduced in 2020. Ali Hajbabaie, an associate professor of civil, engineering and environmental engineering at North Carolina State University and corresponding author of the IEEE study, says, “This is both more efficient and less likely to fall prey to communication breakdowns.
For example, if there is an interruption or delay in communication with the traffic light, the distributed computing approach would still be able to handle the traffic flow smoothly.”
Researchers continue to test this concept using microscopic traffic simulators, which are simulators that can mimic real-world traffic.
These simulators show researchers that traffic improves with the presence of AVs and a fourth traffic light and that fuel consumption is much lower because there is much less stop-and-go traffic. And with Amazon’s self-driving car recently making its first successful run on public roads, we can probably expect more self-driving cars on the road in the near future.
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The concept is far from ready to be adopted and put into motion. However, researchers such as Hajbabaie are hopeful that this will become part of our standard in the future.
Want to see Amazon’s self-driving car in action? Go to my website CyberGuy.com and search “Amazon’s self-driving car“by clicking on the magnifying glass at the top of my website.
How would you like to add a fourth traffic light to the roads? We want to hear from you.
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