Robotic Car Intersection Takes the Wheel
Several robotic cars enter an intersection at once in a simulation by two engineers.
CREDIT: From "Simulator for Automated Vehicles at Intersections" by MrAizee on YouTube
In preparation for a coming world of robot cars, engineers have created a robot traffic cop to get them through intersections faster and more safely.
Because such smart intersections would minimize human error, they would be safer than intersections are now, the traffic signal's creators say. Intelligent crossroads would also save every car an average of 35 seconds of wait time per stoplight.
In their calculations, Hesham Rakha, a Virginia Tech engineering professor, and his doctoral student, Ismail Zohdy, assumed that everyone will be using robotic cars in the near future. "You will not be driving your car anymore; you will be driven by your car," Zohdy said in a statement.
"We are not talking about the distant future," Rakha said. Robotic cars are closer to reality than many may think, he and Zohdy wrote in a paper about their smart traffic signal. They cited some driverless cars under development now, including Google-made cars and research vehicles from Stanford University.
While other researchers have written computer programs for how driverless cars should act at intersections, Rakha and Zohdy say their controller takes into account more variables than other systems do. It calculates different cars' engine capacities, for example.
In the futuristic intersections that Rakha and Zohdy imagined, cars coming up to the intersection would send data about their location and speed to a central controller. Meanwhile, the controller would gather information about the weather, the speed limit at the intersection and how many lanes the intersection has. Once a car gets close enough, the controller would direct the car along paths that it has calculated are the swiftest while remaining safe. [SEE ALSO: 5 Ways Self-Driving Cars Will Make You Love Commuting]
The result is an intersection where cars don't need to pause as often or as long as human-driven vehicles need to. "The proposed intersection controller, which allows vehicles to keep moving, reduces the delay for each vehicle compared to traditional intersection control," Rakha said. "Keeping vehicles moving is also more fuel efficient and reduces emissions."
Rakha and Zohdy made a video to show what traffic flow would look like through their intersection:
The engineers are also preparing for a future in which some people have automated cars, but others are still driving non-robotic models. "We were testing it if only 10 percent of the vehicles were automated and the other 90 percent were regular vehicles with driver control. We varied the level of automation from 10 to 100 percent at 10 percent increments," Rakha said.
They presented their work at the Intelligent Transportation Society World Congress in October, where they won a best paper award for North America.