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Traffic Control of the Future

michael posted about 10 years ago | from the i-feel-lucky dept.

Technology 339

petra13 writes "A high point of the Autonomous Agents and Multi Agent Systems conference this past week was Kurt Dresner and Peter Stone's paper 'Multiagent Traffic Management: A Reservation-Based Intersection Control Mechanism.' They designed an automated system where cars reserve a time to pass through an intersection as they approach it and are then sped up or slowed down to ensure their arrival at exactly the right time. This allows traffic to enter the intersection from all directions simultaneously, eliminating the need for traffic lights and considerably reducing delays caused by stopping traffic. On their website, you can find Java applet simulations to illustrate the system. Especially impressive looking is the six lanes of heavy traffic in all directions simulation. I would love to see this in real life (from a safe distance of course)."

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339 comments

What about..... (4, Insightful)

BWJones (18351) | about 10 years ago | (#9790356)

I have to wonder if these simulations or plans account for bicycles or pedestrians?

Re:What about..... (1)

n.wegner (613340) | about 10 years ago | (#9790389)

Why should they? Use these on freeways with overpasses for pedestrians and bikes.

Re:What about..... (1, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 years ago | (#9790541)

Freeways don't have intersections, eh.

Re:What about..... (4, Insightful)

transient (232842) | about 10 years ago | (#9790398)

Doesn't look like it. Nor do they account for, as someone else pointed out, turning. Even more importantly, at no point during the simulation does a dog run out into the street, a hubcap fall off, or a tire blow out. At the end of their report, the authors mention that humans probably aren't capable of driving within the tolerances required by their system, but they never consider distress/emergency situations.

But, in spite of its limitations, this is an impressive technique and I'm sure that someone will be able to build on it.

Re:What about..... (5, Funny)

pHatidic (163975) | about 10 years ago | (#9790427)

You're taking this too literally. It's really just a metaphor. Let's say to the north of the intersection is the United States. To the south is Iraq. To the west is our ally Great Britain and to the right is terrorist Michael Moore. Does this make any sense to you? Of course it doesn't.

Now these cars are like diplomats all trying to make peace with eachother. If this doesn't make sense it's because it's complete nonsense.

Next we have the pedestrians and bicycles as mentioned in your post. Let these represent terrorists and weapons of mass destruction. If you're confused then clearly its because this entire situation makes no sense.

To conclude while you may think this simple simulation is designed to control cars, it's really something much larger designed to make the world a more friendly place. And if this doesn't make sense to you, you must buy the product.

In all seriousness though, this has applications far beyond cars, such as increasing the efficiency at factories with conveyor belts and robots, routing data over the internet, more efficient combustion engines, etc. While it would be ideal to evolve the perfect solutions using genetic algorithms, this is a good fix in a less than perfect world.

Re:What about..... (2, Insightful)

Keck (7446) | about 10 years ago | (#9790434)

I have to wonder if these simulations or plans account for bicycles or pedestrians?

They probably account for them by saying this is only for highways, where bicyclists and pedestrians aren't legally allowed (at least in the US) anyway. Besides, you have to start *somewhere* :). In their paper, they list assumptions even greater than !bicycles and !pedestrians:
  • no TURNS
  • everybody goes roughly the same speed (not a bad assumption on highway)

Overall, a very worthy bit of research IMHO.

Re:What about..... (1)

Moderation abuser (184013) | about 10 years ago | (#9790489)

No, of course they don't. It's the over simplified "imagine a cow was a perfect sphere" type of engineering.

Even more importantly, motorcycles (or other ptv) given that they travel as fast as cars. Get it wrong on a bike and splat, change the speed of a bike on a bend and splat, you either run wide into oncoming traffic, fall into the verge or stand it up and again run into oncoming traffic.

Re:What about..... (1)

mr. methane (593577) | about 10 years ago | (#9790584)

with the kind of intersection that would justify this kind of investment, it would likely be above or below grade, giving a good chance to offer pedestrians or bikers their own, separated andd safe, passage.

I don't know how well this would mix with a downtown environment, but something like one of the super-busy intersections near an airport or freeway... I think its a good starting point...

I CAN'T believe I got FP (-1, Redundant)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 years ago | (#9790357)

I can't believe I got FP!!!

Re:I CAN'T believe I got FP (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 years ago | (#9790420)

I can't believe you failed it! Via panjo kacosucxigis mian kacon!

Breakdown? (1, Interesting)

a1cypher (619776) | about 10 years ago | (#9790363)

This seems really neat, but definately not practical. What happens when a car breaks down or stalls on its way through the intersection?

Re:Breakdown? (2, Insightful)

nuclear305 (674185) | about 10 years ago | (#9790474)

The same thing that would happen without the system...the other people either 1) Stop, 2) Stop, and help move your vehicle if necessary or 3) Drive right into you because they weren't paying attention.

Re:Breakdown? (1)

Secrity (742221) | about 10 years ago | (#9790475)

Looks to me like if one car malfunctions, then the whole thing crashes. The degree of spectacularity is dependant upon the speed of the cars and how close the distance is between cars. Brings to mind pictures of 100 car pileups.

Re:Breakdown? (1)

connsmythe96 (576445) | about 10 years ago | (#9790503)

On a similar note, in the simulation no one makes any turns...intersections where lots of people turn might mess this up.

Re:Breakdown? (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 years ago | (#9790529)

Exactly what I was thinking...

While it is impressive, there are other behaviours that need to be accounted for...

1)Variation in car length.

2)Variation in available accelleration rates.

3)Cars turning corners.

4)Lane changing.

5)Cars not equipped with this system...

6)People freaking out when seeing all the cars rushing towards them!

Given that they have about a hundred fold improvement in transit time through the intersection, they probably have room to take some of these into account. Personally I'd want to build a big physical simulation of this in a downtown core in order to see how well it works with variability, and to see just how well people handle seeing these cars whipping towards them...

TJ

Scary! (5, Funny)

Sgs-Cruz (526085) | about 10 years ago | (#9790365)

That six-lane each way simulation is awesome, but they had better modify the thing before actually rolling it out so that the cars don't go so damn close to each other. Computer control or not, I don't want another guy's car 7" from my bumper at 70 km/h...

Re:Scary! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 years ago | (#9790385)

That six-lane each way simulation is awesome.

Not for me. It crashed. Not the cars, but both IE and firefox.

Re:Scary! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 years ago | (#9790414)

Ok, downloaded the newest java from java.com and it works great.

Re:Scary! (2, Informative)

NoYes19 (766616) | about 10 years ago | (#9790399)

a fixed size buffer around each car is the same as a bigger car...so rly its the same.

Re:Scary! (2, Informative)

Keck (7446) | about 10 years ago | (#9790408)

they had better modify the thing before actually rolling it out so that the cars don't go so damn close to each other

They may well have done so, just by making the 'length' of the cars longer. You could probably make a similar simulation with a minimum radius around each car, so nobody can be in your 'bubble'; maybe have a maximum number of cars in the intersection at a time. The obvious price is, longer delay. I could live with a 1.5 second 'delay' as opposed to 9.whatever seconds with traffic lights. There's negligible difference between a 1 second delay and 0.076 seconds anyway.

Re:Scary! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 years ago | (#9790509)

I don't want another guy's car 7" from my bumper at 70 km/h

Argh! The measurement system mismatch is making my head explode!

Should have said 0.0972 fathoms from my bumper at 116917.204 furlongs per fortnight.

Re:Scary! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 years ago | (#9790514)

"...Six lanes are enough for everyone..." - CEO 1972 [traf-o-data.com]

Re:Scary! (1)

thetoastman (747937) | about 10 years ago | (#9790581)

you've never driven in southern california, have you? 7" between cars in Orange County, and another driver will try to slip in front of you to save a few seconds of travel time . . .

Hmm.. (1, Insightful)

bigattichouse (527527) | about 10 years ago | (#9790369)

I wonder if you can apply the same logic to items of in a processor. or in a kernel thread scheduler... hmm.

Re:Hmm.. (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 years ago | (#9790423)

and i wonder if i can apply my fist to your nose you fucktard

Re:Hmm.. (1)

KillerCow (213458) | about 10 years ago | (#9790532)

I wonder if you can apply the same logic to... a kernel thread scheduler

Unlikely, since the simulation assumes that you can predict when the actor reaches the critical section (car to spot in intersection).

Doing that in a thread scheduler requires you to predict how long it will take a thread to execute before it reaches some critical section. That would allow you to solve the halting problem... which we know is unsolvable.

Re:Hmm.. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 years ago | (#9790563)

You can't speed up or slow down items in a pipeline or processes in an OS. You either stall the pipeline or bump the process.

Um (5, Insightful)

Apreche (239272) | about 10 years ago | (#9790371)

That simulation was pretty impressive when I looked at it. Until I realized something. None of the cars are turning left or right. Theories and math and simulations work great and are often impressive. But real world factors will almost always mess them up.

So one day when there is a way to get from everywhere on earth to every other place on earth without turning left or right give me a call. Until then, let's stop and let people turn left.

Re:Um (2, Interesting)

a1cypher (619776) | about 10 years ago | (#9790379)

What about the same principle, but working with a huge traffic circle?

Re:Um (0, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 years ago | (#9790380)

Turning? Now that is dangerous thinking, as an American you are supposed to go straight and not ask questions. Don't make me report you to John Ashcroft!

yeah... (1)

i_will_frag_u_all (792832) | about 10 years ago | (#9790397)

good point. and what if someone destroyed the controlling unit or broke the connection from car to controller, then what happens? do all the cars simply stop? or does it end up as a huge pileup?
i would definetly not want this system unil ALL the bugs have been worked out.

Re:Um (2, Interesting)

testadicazzo (567430) | about 10 years ago | (#9790437)

Well, it's initial research isn't it. Clearly there are other factors to consider. But I think it's impressive as 'proof of concept' anyway: indicating that further research (i.e. handling turns, pedestrians, etc) is worthwhile.

As for pedestrians, It's pretty common in busier intersections here in Europe to provide overpasses or underpasses. Hell I've even seen them in Canada and Alaska, and a few places in the states. So where these are worthwhile this issue can even be dropped (and in fact these kind of high traffic areas are probably the domain of interest for the technology).

Re:Um (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 years ago | (#9790443)

If this is a major highway, then ramps would be used .

Re:Um (2, Funny)

paperguy (713455) | about 10 years ago | (#9790464)

Yeah, what about "ambi-turners"?

Re:Um (1)

drinkypoo (153816) | about 10 years ago | (#9790569)

This could probably be [relatively] easily adapted to allow right turns in the model. Thus you could use it on the busy streets in the center of cities which do not allow left turns. Of course, you still need cars to be computer-controlled for this, so it's kind of a moot point for the forseeable future.

Great!! (5, Insightful)

SeaDour (704727) | about 10 years ago | (#9790372)

Now all we have to do is convince the general population that their cars are safe in the autonomous control of computers rather than their own two hands. Sure, *I* know that having automobiles controlled by a sophisticated traffic network would be safer and more efficient -- I read Slashdot, after all -- but I doubt very many people in this country would be so thrilled about the idea of giving up their grip on the steering wheel.

Not So Great!! (1)

TubeSteak (669689) | about 10 years ago | (#9790421)

I read slashdot and i worry about the type of company that will code the software.

Imagine if Diebold CEO Wally O'Dell stated, "I am committed to helping Ohio deliver its electoral^H^H^H^H^H^H^H voters to the president next year." Scary thought

Re:Not So Great!! (1)

adam1234 (696497) | about 10 years ago | (#9790512)

I can just see the a completely non-technical CEO saying "control-H" seven times in a row in front of a group of industry analysts. Now that would lose them!

Re:Great!! (1)

causality (777677) | about 10 years ago | (#9790433)

Well, you have SUV drivers who, at highway speeds, maintain a following distance appropriate for a human-powered bicycle doing about 5 mph, not to mention said SUV drivers have this tendency to believe that the Department of Transportation makes all those double-yellow median lines so that they have a guide for their left tires, thus ensuring a head-on or at least a sideswipe collision unless I am willing to risk running down a mailbox or two. Not to mention how many people in this area love to run red lights, follow too closely (it's not just SUV drivers), pull out in front of you, cut you off, and generally drive completely ignorant of the fact that they are currently doing something that people get killed every day doing. Yeah I'm sure I sound a bit anal but I expect people to be a little more "on point" when they are playing with life and death than I do when the worst possible result is only an annoyance.

Re:Great!! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 years ago | (#9790570)

Carry a gun and be willing to use it. It's ok for you to kill someone else in order to save your own life (and I'm not talking self defense here.) In my own personal opinion, you don't even have an obligation to scratch your paint. If some stupid fucker isn't paying attention and the choice is you kill them or they scratch your paint, then I recommend sending a nice boquet to the funeral.

Re:Great!! (1)

mepperpint (790350) | about 10 years ago | (#9790438)

Safer until a bug turns up, someone hacks the system, or it crashes. Imagine the accident when all the cars speeding through the intersection at 50mph when the system stops responding.....

Re:Great!! (1)

pedantic bore (740196) | about 10 years ago | (#9790457)

Well, I'm not convinced. My commute is different every day due to construction (OK, now you know I live in Boston) and trucks double-parked and new pot-holes, sanitation trucks doing random things... In short, the route is extremely variable and requires a lot of attention.

I'm not saying that a computer couldn't deal with all this information -- it probably would do very well. However, I suspect that getting the information into the system (where's the crazy woman with the shopping cart right now? Is that dog going to run out into the street?) would be the stumbling block.

Re:Great!! (1)

NoMoreNicksLeft (516230) | about 10 years ago | (#9790553)

Easily solved with controller computers for all stray dogs. The paranoid schizophrenic homeless person with the shopping cart already claims to be controlled by computers, so that's almost like free money when they plan the budget for this thing. As for flat tires and other problems that could make for catastrophe, that pays for itself too, since they've already got a deal inked with Fox for "When Traffic Control Computers Attack!"....

Not me! (1)

cagle_.25 (715952) | about 10 years ago | (#9790546)

I wouldn't be willing to relinquish my car to computer control, for several reasons:

1) If only one -- just ONE -- object on the road doesn't play within the bounds of the driving algorithm, mass accidents can happen, because the first car to interact badly with said object now becomes a second unpredictable hazard on the road. With people in control, you only get mass pileups under the harshest of conditions (like blinding rain, snow, or fog).

2) Computer control requires getting real-time updates about road and traffic conditions in the immediate driving region. My eyes give me a 60Hz data refresh rate, with continuous conscious and subconscious processing. Can a computer system beat that?

3) No, it can't. One of my good friends is working on computer driving problems for NIST. Current driving algorithms get horrendously confused about dealing with obstacles. They can't handle the "avoid? stop? try to beat? ignore?" choice. Human drivers make that choice with difficulty but general success; Computer driving can't deal with that choice well at all.

Re:Great!! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 years ago | (#9790574)

i'm sure the same type of comments occurred when traffic cops became obsolete, and were replaced by traffic signals.

"you mean that i'm supposed to trust a computer to change the lights? what happens if it turns all four ways to green? or if it holds up everyone at a four-way red?"

I dont get the simulation.... (1)

imsabbel (611519) | about 10 years ago | (#9790376)

Why do cars drive through each other at the intersection?
If its just 2 independent lanes, why the cross-layout?
And why even bother to simulate 6 lanes if there isnt any lane-changing? (at least i havent seen one)

oops, (1)

imsabbel (611519) | about 10 years ago | (#9790391)

ok, the cars are SUPPOSED to nearly crash at the intersection. Sorry, ditnt RTFA...

But: If this control system would be THAT perfect, you could easily increase traffic saturation by 300% by removing any safty distance between your cars. If its safe to near miss each other at the intersection, it shoulnt be a problem to drive with only 1 or 2 meters to the guy in front of you...

Re:I dont get the simulation.... (1)

BearJ (783382) | about 10 years ago | (#9790401)

Why would you need to change lanes, if there was no need to pass? If the cars aren't under your control, you won't be going significantly different speeds and need to pass. Ok, admittedly, you need to change lanes to turn, etc, but this sim doesn't seem to cover that.

Nobody turns... (1)

NoYes19 (766616) | about 10 years ago | (#9790384)

Why have an intersection that no one turns at? Just make an overpass---0 delay always.

Re:Nobody turns... (1)

bluGill (862) | about 10 years ago | (#9790565)

Do you have any idea what the cost of an overpass is? Millions of dollars. A road is expensive to build, but cheap compared to a bridge.

Re:Nobody turns... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 years ago | (#9790576)

Cost. It's cheaper to have two intersecting roads share the same piece of pavement than it is to build an overpass. Barring any non-roadway obstacles, it's also easier to widen an intersection than an overpass.

I, for one... (1, Funny)

vurg (639307) | about 10 years ago | (#9790387)

..wait, let me RTFA again.

Security (3, Interesting)

Stile 65 (722451) | about 10 years ago | (#9790400)

I know people have already commented on the cars not changing lanes or turning, and the possibility of breakdown, but this system would be easy to exploit maliciously. If an agent didn't slow down the car, or misreported its speed/location, that could make for a lot of... er... amusement?

Re:Security (1)

NoYes19 (766616) | about 10 years ago | (#9790447)

YEAH! Becasue agents always stop at Stop Lights.....o wait.

-5 Flamebait, sry I just couldn't resist.

An alternative mechanism (2, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 years ago | (#9790406)

Here in Britain, we have a less sophisticated system for letting multiple streams of traffic enter an intersection with minimal delay; It's called a roundabout, and we use them everywhere.

Re:An alternative mechanism (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 years ago | (#9790445)

We have a few of them in the States, where they're alternately called roundabouts (as you call them), traffic circles, or rotaries. It depends on which part of the country you're in. We only have one in my hometown, but Boston is full of them.

In (New) Jersey we call them... (1)

spineboy (22918) | about 10 years ago | (#9790556)

Traffic circles. Then also make great places to dump bodies.

i-feel-lucky (2, Funny)

Barryke (772876) | about 10 years ago | (#9790412)

its not offtopic realy,

Posted by michael on Saturday July 24, @04:07PM
from the i-feel-lucky dept./I>

i-feel-lucky? damn even this geek site's crew has a girlfriend.. :( ..use Google!

Population (1)

harlingtoxad (798873) | about 10 years ago | (#9790428)

Can you really design traffic of the future without every having a clear idea of population growth in various areas? I live by I-95 and really doubt that traffic can be planned for.

Nice, but ... (1)

scs987 (799825) | about 10 years ago | (#9790431)

Try the simulations with 9 lanes in each direction and a .1 spawn probability. The traffic light is the lower delay solution in that case. Reservation comes to a grinding halt almost immediately. Still pretty cool though.

Re:Nice, but ... (1)

scs987 (799825) | about 10 years ago | (#9790448)

and I'm an idiot, too. Upping the granularity seems to make all the difference ... slap self x5

but .... (1)

jdkane (588293) | about 10 years ago | (#9790436)

What if one day I decided to tow a trailer and a boat behind me?

Standard vehicles in controlled areas (4, Insightful)

kindofblue (308225) | about 10 years ago | (#9790440)

This may not be practical for general traffic, but I could see it being very useful for places where one can control a fleet of individual cooperative vehicles. This could be on a factory floor with robotic delivery vehicles (e.g. in an Amazon-type warehouse), baggage haulers on airport runways, at airports with the airplanes themselves to get to runways, construction sites with heavy machinery, companies with fleets of similar vehicles like at UPS, FedEx, Walmart, military sites with tanks and humvees (using encrypted channels of course), etc.

There are lots of places where you have a need for traffic control with big or many vehicles, in tight spaces. Such resource allocation is a huge part of many problems. That's where they should market this first, I think.

Can't patent this! (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 years ago | (#9790454)

George Lucas already has prior art on this traffic design as shown in Star Wars Episode 2.

Uh...no (1)

SteveXE (641833) | about 10 years ago | (#9790455)

I saw a few of these blue dots collide. Imagine for a moment if something like this really rolled out, how damn scary it would be the first few times, and then imagine the public outrage and dismantling of the system as soon as a single accident occured.

Chicken and egg... (3, Informative)

Faies (248065) | about 10 years ago | (#9790456)

Insurance companies will want real proof that such a system will be stable and as secure as today's intersections before even half-considering it.

Such proof for this system will require that ALL cars in the area be equipped with such systems and an equally large number of intersections handled.

This roadblock to development was what happened to a demo for a system in which cars controlled by computers would follow magnets in a road and drive within 1m of other cars. That was a couple of years back in San Diego.

If cars are going to be automated someday, we'll need to find some compromise which does not require implementation for all vehicles on a road- i.e. a lane for truckers on long stretches of highway.

That's just my 2 cents. Something like this would be really cool should we ever get to this point....or we could just get flying cars and fly over :)

Re:Chicken and egg... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 years ago | (#9790597)

Insurance companies will want real proof that such a system will be stable and as secure as today's intersections before even half-considering it.

Nope. They'll want proof that they can exploit the system to their benefit at least as well as they do currently. A system with no accidents is a system with no need for insurance companies.

Custom sim shows it better (4, Informative)

t_allardyce (48447) | about 10 years ago | (#9790458)

Stick the granularity on 3 and try:
N: 2 - .04
E: 4 - 1
S: 2 - .06
W: 4 - 0.1

you can see the system cue the cars on the east -> west road up and create little 'gaps' in the flow across all lanes that sync up with the north/south cars as they cross, nice to look at but it really needs turning and lane crossing, on the low granularity the cars get more clearence which is abit more realistic :P

Re:Custom sim shows it better (1)

NoMoreNicksLeft (516230) | about 10 years ago | (#9790599)

I haven't even tried to run the simulation yet, but on in an intersection with 3+ lanes, it would seem to me that you'd lane change all non-turning vehicles into the middle lane(s) and do the same cueing for right-hand turns pretty much normally. Maybe only a slightly larger gap, to give the turning car time to catch up with the cars going in his new direction. Left hand turns would need gaps that are slightly out of sync with each other, since they cross the first lane (as if they were simply crossing) but then turn. Other than that, same as right-hand turns. I don't think that either lane changing or turning is particularly more challenging than straight through. The real question, as everyone is pointing out, just what sorts of failure modes does this thing have, and does it allow for unmanaged vehicles and or obstacles.

Worse, how many retards will decide they can take it off autopilot, and how many people will they kill besides themselves?

The 6 lane version as a great theme park ride (5, Funny)

sprior (249994) | about 10 years ago | (#9790462)

Imagine a theme park doing the 6 lane version as a futuristic thrill ride. You'd have to hose off the seats after every run...

Re:The 6 lane version as a great theme park ride (1)

kindofblue (308225) | about 10 years ago | (#9790471)

That's a cool idea. Add flashing lights all around the bumper cars, with screaming sound effects, just to get people in the mood.

oh yeah... (1)

alexandre (53) | about 10 years ago | (#9790472)

and now, one of those hit a stick in the middle of the intersection and all of a sudden you beat the record for biggest pile-up ever!

Too many things that could go wrong (2, Insightful)

momerath2003 (606823) | about 10 years ago | (#9790479)

What happens if a pedestrian walks into the intersection? If a car's brakes fail or it doesn't accelerate as fast as it should?

This would require that every car on the road has both extremely precise acceleration and precise location reference (possible with GPS, but even that only has resolution of a few meters).

In short, this tech certainly won't be around anytime soon.

Re:Too many things that could go wrong (1)

Kiryat Malachi (177258) | about 10 years ago | (#9790593)

Localizers and cheap radar can solve your location reference problem; electronic throttle control and fun things like camless engines can solve for precise acceleration. ETC and camless is a next 10 years sort of technology, cheap radar also. Localizers are probably a little further out, but custom versions just for roadways could be made now if the desire was there.

Not anytime soon, but it isn't so far off... *if* there's a will for it.

Car AI of the future, to driver: (5, Funny)

SpotBug (228742) | about 10 years ago | (#9790482)


"Approaching intersection, please close eyes."

Re:Car AI of the future, to driver: (2, Funny)

phillymjs (234426) | about 10 years ago | (#9790506)

"Approaching intersection, please close eyes."

Nuts to that. I'll just get the Peril-Sensitive(TM) Window Glass option.

~Philly

One question (1)

mike_lynn (463952) | about 10 years ago | (#9790490)

Where the hell are the semi-trucks and moving vans?

This simulation is pretty, but with the space they give to cars that narrowly miss each other, I don't want to trust an electronic component in my car to accurately report the length of my vehicle within 1 foot. Imagine the fun as some contractor enters the intersection with an extra 2 feet of board sticking out the back and a perfectly legal red flag on it.

And don't forget you'd have to disable the break pedal because a single hesitation will cause a multicar pile up.

And this differs... (1)

crmartin (98227) | about 10 years ago | (#9790491)

... from Boston traffic how?

Re:And this differs... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 years ago | (#9790523)

Fewer accidents and a hell of a lot less swearing? Of course the reduced swearing will be offset by increased praying with each near-miss...

Many people already use a similar system (1)

john_smith_45678 (607592) | about 10 years ago | (#9790497)

They just ignore red lights.

Fight the corruption (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 years ago | (#9790498)

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Just saw the reservation system theory... (1)

herrvinny (698679) | about 10 years ago | (#9790499)

Just saw the reservation system Java applet (http://www.cs.utexas.edu/users/kdresner/2004aamas /reservation.html [utexas.edu] ). Seems okay, couple of tiny problems though:
  • The cars aren't turning. Are the cars getting highway-style ramps merging parallel into and out of a road, is there an overpass system, or what?
  • I'm watching the cars (which are represented by orange rectangles); where is their theory being shown? Some of these cars, when moving through the intersection, are just 1-2 pixels away from a perpendicularly moving car. In the real world, that might just be a 1-2 feet. It says in the description:

    The granularity of the reservation system for this simulation is 4 (i.e. the system consists of a 4 x 4 grid of reservation tiles).

    Well, I'm not seeing any tiles being allocated or how the applet does it's stuff. It would be nicer if the applet actually showed how the tiles are being allocated and to which car. Source code would be nice as well.

Roundabouts? (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 years ago | (#9790501)

I'd like to see this compared to the roundabout intersection.

This was solved centuries ago (3, Interesting)

Stubby (152983) | about 10 years ago | (#9790502)

if they are not going to consider turning lanes, there is a Much simpiler solution. A Bridge. If every vehicle is only going straight, an elevated bridge is the solution.

the other problem with this solution is average car length. An accepted Average car length is 19 ft. But the first semi truck that goes through this intersection gets t-boned.

This is barely a concept techonology. Every one thinks they are a Transportation Engineer because they drive cars, the problem is always much more complex.

Network management is not a solution to transportion problems.

perhaps not as ambitious, but. . . (2, Informative)

loraksus (171574) | about 10 years ago | (#9790505)

It would be nice to know whether that light ahead of you is going to change or not so you can speed up / slow down to compensate. It would probably subdue a ton of Class A personality drivers and make the commute perhaps a bit more enjoyable.
In a bunch of cities in Canada, they have a bunch of "If this light is blinking, prepare to stop" lights. Tends to help the traffic flow and mood of the drivers quite a bit.

This is irrelevant information... (1)

remin8 (791979) | about 10 years ago | (#9790513)

...cars in the future will fly, and we won't need roads, just plenty of JP-8 and a GPS!

RFID Tags. (1)

toetagger1 (795806) | about 10 years ago | (#9790520)

I wonder if you could use generic RFID Tags (aka non-Unique) to track the progression of cars, and then use computers to adjust traffic lights such that the least time is lost waiting. Each intersection would have to know the cars approaching it from each side for about the next minute or so, and then on top of that a layer of algorithms that finds the best interconnected rythm for all traffic lights. The goal should be: As long as you go straight, you only have to stop once (in the beginning). Once you are in a bulk of cars that goes straight, you should always have green, untill you turn. At that point, you have to wait to move into the other pack of cars allready going straight. You can then use speed limits to to regulate saftey concerns, and at some points where timing is impossible to force a small delay. Any person speeding would only have to wait at the next traffic light, so that's another benefit. How hard would it be to do something like that, with the help of RFID?

Heh (1)

oGMo (379) | about 10 years ago | (#9790521)

This allows traffic to enter the intersection from all directions simultaneously

I do not think that word means [reference.com] what you think it means.

Already done (1)

OYAHHH (322809) | about 10 years ago | (#9790522)

Done in air traffic control everyday. On a different scale mind you.

Not sure it would work here :( (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 years ago | (#9790530)

It's been my experience that in a lot of towns in British Columbia (where I'm from) that the traffic lights are tuned to force you to stop at most major intersections. I was talking to a friend of mine in the roads department here and he said that the reason it's set up that way is to entice you to take a look at your surroundings and notice the local merchants, instead of just driving by and ignoring them.

I'm not sure if that's BS or not, but it sure seems that they aren't tuned to allow traffic to flow thru at a nice pace!!!

Re:Not sure it would work here :( (1)

t_allardyce (48447) | about 10 years ago | (#9790603)

Can you do a freedom of information request and get the minutes to the meeting where that was decided? that would be a great scandle! "State Endangers Lives For Advertising" (ok i know thats not true but that would be the line, or maybe "Cars Forced to Waste Gas for Corporate Interests"

Hey (4, Funny)

mukund (163654) | about 10 years ago | (#9790545)

So where's the Frog?

In Soviet Union Car Drives You! (-1, Troll)

lofi-rev (797197) | about 10 years ago | (#9790548)

I wonder if it would be possible for a single car to predict what the optimum reservation time is in order to make it through the intersection faster?

Horrible Idea (1)

ShadowRage (678728) | about 10 years ago | (#9790551)

here's the scary thought besides the obvious "OMG GOVERNMENT CONTROL" scenario

if the computer system were to suddenly fuck up, a miscaculation or a power outage... there'd be wrecks like insanity, and the drivers' fate would be sealed, as they would have no control over their vehicle to get in a position that wont harm them, or veer out of the way, or whatever.

impressive (1)

hkg4r7h (468346) | about 10 years ago | (#9790566)

and I crapped my pants just watching the simulation!

Solving the wrong problem. (2, Insightful)

Moderation abuser (184013) | about 10 years ago | (#9790568)

The problem with all these traffic management systems is that they are attempting to solve the wrong problem. What they should be doing is asking why there are so many people on the road at the same time all going in the same direction.

Re:Solving the wrong problem. (1)

lofi-rev (797197) | about 10 years ago | (#9790582)

Yeah, Simulating train traffic like this would be much easier. Of course it's mostly about people not wanting to give up control.

Hybrid (2, Insightful)

t_allardyce (48447) | about 10 years ago | (#9790572)

What about mixing traffic lights with a reservation system? as you get near you signal the computer your intentions early (left/right/straight) and it starts giving you a speed to match, the speed would be tuned to try and prevent you needing to stop or slow down too much which makes everything quicker for everyone, if you did break or you didnt have the system installed (or it malfunctioned) you would just drive like normal and obviously stop if there was a car infront of you or a red light. Technically this already exists - its called 'figuring out how fast you should go' but people either dont bother or get it wrong and end up stopping - the advantage would be that the computer _knows_ exactly when the lights are going to change because its the one doing the changing, there would be no safety issues and the whole thing would be optional? It would be like automated air-traffic-control for cars with the backup feature that cars can stop if needed.

Network Traffic Control (1)

p0 (740290) | about 10 years ago | (#9790590)

They need some present day network traffic controlling...

Wow, am I the only one who sees (1)

nusratt (751548) | about 10 years ago | (#9790594)

wider applicability of this? (not meaning to sound like one of those a**holes in today's article about Are-You-Annoying).
Forget about vehicles, dogs, pedestrians, etc., and think about a completely different "problem space":
how much is this like, and how might it be applied to, architectures for managing traffic flows in nets, LANs, p2p networks, grid computing, email systems, etc.?
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