Engineering Innovation Podcast and Radio Series

Smart Traffic Signals

PostedJuly 2, 2017

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LEDE: Even the most sophisticated traffic signal timing systems only respond to local conditions, and might cause more harm than good on your drive home.

Randy Atkins: City-wide traffic disruptions could result from even well-intentioned signal adjusting in one place.

Carolina Osorio: You have to be able to forecast how people are going to react to that, and that is typically very difficult.

Randy Atkins: Carolina Osorio, an MIT engineer, is creating models – with data from driver surveys and observations – aimed at synchronizing traffic lights across an entire city.

Carolina Osorio: We’re simulating tens of thousands of travelers and for each traveler he or she is making thousands of travel decisions throughout his or her trip.

Randy Atkins: That takes time, even for a computer, and signaling decisions need to be made within minutes. So there are engineering challenges still to be worked out, but Osorio says the system could ultimately both reduce travel time and make it more predictable. With the National Academy of Engineering, Randy Atkins, WTOP News.