In the not so distant future, you won’t be surprised to see a fourth color at traffic lights.
At least that is the proposal of a group of researchers from North Carolina State University, whose purpose is install an additional white traffic light for autonomous vehicles. Intelligent traffic management would thus have a double benefit: reduce congestion on the road and also overall fuel consumption.
Autonomous cars and trucks will not have to look this white traffic light, as they will communicate with it wirelessly. However, this light signal will serve to let human passengers and drivers know that they must follow the autonomous vehicles that circulate through the intersection, collects Science Alert.
According to the study, published in IEEE Transactions on Intelligent Transportation Systems—, the rest of the traditional colors of the traffic light would retain their usual meaning, while the white lights will signal human drivers to follow the autonomous vehicle in front of them.
“This concept that we propose for traffic junctions, which we call ‘white phase’, harnesses the computing power of autonomous vehicles,” explains civil engineer Ali Hajbabaie. Communication at intersections will more efficiently coordinate the flow of traffic, advising an optimal speed and prioritizing converging roads with more vehicles.
In other words, the white traffic light will serve as a way for human drivers to follow the example of the vehicle in front of them, and as soon as the number of autonomous vehicles at an intersection drops below a certain threshold, the traffic lights will return to the normal options of red, amber and green.
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The simulation models developed by these experts demonstrated that their invention has positive consequences for reducing fuel and improving traffic flow. In fact, the higher the percentage of autonomous vehicles at an intersection, the faster the traffic moved, with improvements of between 40% and 99% in terms of overall delay reduction.
The model is called the mobile control paradigm.
From 30% proportion of autonomous vehicles at an intersection, the improvement is significant, while starting at 70%, the intersection can function for the most part as a white phase full auto mode.
The next step would be carry out tests in specific areassince the technology necessary for the implementation of this procedure is still far from becoming a reality.
“The ports have a large volume of commercial vehicle traffic, for which traffic flow is especially important,” says Hajbabaie. “Commercial vehicles appear to have higher adoption rates for autonomous vehicles, so there might be an opportunity to implement a pilot project in that environment,” she concludes.