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Traffic control systems
Date:11/15/2007

Traffic flow accounts for as much as one-third of global energy consumption. However, unconventional changes in managing traffic flow could significantly reduce harmful CO2 emissions. ETH Zurich Professor for Sociology, Dirk Helbing, has developed a self-organised control system for traffic lights that could improve vehicular traffic flow by up to 95 percent.

Dr. Helbing, Professor of Sociology at the ETH Zurich Chair of Sociology, a specialist in modelling and simulation, supports his claim with a recent study called Efficient Self-Control of Traffic Flows in Urban Networks Using Short-Sighted Anticipation. Professor Helbing and co-author, Stefan Lmmer of the Institute for Transport and Economics at Dresden University of Technology, propose a self-organized control system for traffic lights that could improve vehicular traffic flow by up to 95 percent. The system relies on the joining of two distinct strategies.

Traffic light system antiquated

The problem, Professor Helbing explains, is that heavy investments in traffic light systems were made in the 1960s and 70s rendering most systems today, due to use, age and technological advancement, antiquated. Forty to fifty years ago when traffic volume was lighter, the main job of traffic light systems was to manage peak traffic during the day or, for example, sporting events. The lights were centrally controlled, and not programmed to adjust in real time. Rather, they were mostly optimised for pre-established assumed situations, meaning for situations that traffic planners had faced in the past.

The disadvantage of this strategy, especially today, is that the more traffic lights there are to coordinate, the more difficult it is to optimize control of the lights. Why" The dilemma is well-known: the larger the number of nodes, or lights, in a system the more computation is necessary until finally computational time explodes. Even for normal-sized cities, super computers are just not fast enough
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Contact: Dirk Helbing
dirk.helbing@gess.ethz.ch
41-446-328-880
ETH Zurich/Swiss Federal Institute of Technology
Source:Eurekalert

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