Organic traffic lights

Controlling road traffic in congested areas is difficult to say the least, a point to which any drive-time urban commuter might testify. An organic approach to traffic lights, might help solve the problem and avoid traffic jams and gridlock, according to research published this month in the International Journal of Autonomous and Adaptive Communications Systems.

According to Holger Prothmann of the Karlsruhe Institute of Technology, and colleagues there and at Leibniz Universität Hannover, Germany, so-called "organic" computing can model even very complex systems. In recent years, they explain organic computing has emerged as a possible solution to a wide range of problems involving complex, autonomous systems, that have sensors and controllers.

In the case of an urban traffic system, the sensors would be closed-circuit TV cameras mounted on road gantries and other places while the controllers, or actuators, would be traffic lights, which can effectively start and stop the flow of traffic.

Currently, traffic lights either have fixed timer controls or a centralised, control system. The widely used Split, Cycle and Offset Optimisation Technique (SCOOT) is popular with those responsible for traffic control. It computes a single cycle time for all intersections, splits this cycle time into green times for each intersection and then adjusts offset times in order to minimise waiting times. SCOOT's primary aim is keep traffic flowing smoothly and pedestrians safe. Modern traffic-responsive Urban Control (TUC) additionally takes public transport into account.

However, although these systems have been developed over many years, they do have several technical shortcomings and do occur more frequently than drivers would like because problems with flow control. Fixed timers are obviously flawed as they do not respond to traffic itself and even centralised systems cannot respond optimally to the changes in traffic movements out on the roads. This leads to jams and waste drivers' time, vehicle fuel, and to higher levels of localised pollution in towns and cities than might otherwise be present.

"The environmental and economic importance of traffic control systems combined with the distributed nature of traffic nodes and their constantly changing traffic demands make traffic light control an ideal test case for organic computing approaches," explains Prothmann.

He and his colleagues have now used the organic computing approach to develop a decentralised traffic control system and compared its impact on traffic flow with a conventional system. "The organic approach is based on industry-standard traffic light controllers," Prothmann explains. These have been adapted to have an observer/controller architecture that allows the traffic light to respond to traffic flow and to pass on information to the other traffic lights on neighbouring roads.

Tests at busy junctions in Hamburg, have demonstrated that the average number of vehicle stops can be cut significantly, delays avoided, and journey times reduced, all of which has benefits for drivers, pedestrians and city dwellers, and, in terms of fuel use and pollution, the environment.

More information: "Organic traffic light control for urban road networks" in Int. J. Autonomous and Adaptive Communications Systems, 2009, 2, 203-225

Provided by Inderscience

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Jul 01, 2009
At last .. someone is going to sort out the illogical use of traffic lights (partly).

The present system is far more disruptive than people think.

Sitting still and being told to stop whilst fresh air passes by is insane. How angry would you be if a man walked up to you and forced you to stop walking for no reason what so ever?

The massive OVER USE of traffic lights has been a growing problem for years.

When we had the flood in Carlisle, everything went down, including the traffic lights, the flow was absolutely perfect. I really cant state it enough .. IT WORKED SOO WELL! People became people and used common sense. Everyone applied good manners.

Yet an office worker, who can make a statistic say anything, and its v easy to do so, decides to bring them all back online later, or he would have to loose his job and do something else.

Approaching a traffic light which turns to red .... waste of petrol, frustration given to millions of drivers, who can see the absurdity of waiting for fresh air, especially during the evening and night, waste of resources making more brake pads, waste of electricity, waste of government office facilities, waste of time etc.

I drive a car and cycle and have done for a few decades. I pay particular attention to human behaviour and how/why we apply technology etc.

We almost regulated nature to death and now we are doing it to ourselves.

Please dont let our imaginary fears kill our freedom.


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