Can you imagine a world where you don’t have to stop at red lights? According to a team of researchers from MIT, Italian National Research Council and Swiss Institute of Technology, this is possible, and not just a futuristic concept.
As described in the paper they published in the PLoS One journal, the idea is to have a transportation system that does not need any stop signals. What’s more surprising is that the team believes it can achieve the purpose of eliminating traffic signals without turning to self-driving cars for help.
Paolo Santi from Ambient Mobility Lab and Carlo Ratti from SENSEable City Lab are the brains behind the paper substantiating their work on a slot-based intersection. They believe the system is still functional even if for non-autonomous cars.
Regarding the type of technology needed, Santi says we don’t have to wait another 20 years. Autonomous driving is not the answer they came up with. “It’s actually much simpler,” he added.
The researchers posted a short YouTube video that highlights the way this system works. According to the inventors, the idea could be implemented without hitting any technological hurdles.
Co-author Carlo Ratti, head of the SENSEable City Lab in MIT’s Department of Urban Studies and Planning, studied the nature of intersections, which proved to be difficult to conceptualize without traffic signals because “you have two flows competing for the same piece of real estate.
He added that, 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.” This creates a more efficient system because the vehicles cross the intersection exactly when they have a slot.
However, in spite of the brilliance of the idea, there is still a risk to human drivers. Even though the cars would be equipped with sensors for the system to work, humans would still be in control behind the wheel.
While the system is in place to guide the car’s trajectory and cruising speed, the driver would still have full control of the vehicle, which means human error could still occur. The system is turned upside down even if one driver disobeys the speed limit or lane changing.
Researchers are aware that the idea is still in the conceptual phase and that a paradigm shift is needed in the current infrastructure – and this could take years to implement.
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