This system reduces both traffic and fuel consumption.
In a future where self-driving cars race up and down our busy streets, a fourth color could be added to traffic lights.
At this point, researchers at North Carolina State University propose a white traffic light system based on the intelligent management of traffic flow by autonomous vehicles. In this way, it is foreseen that both the level of traffic congestion and the overall fuel consumption can be reduced.
Self-driving cars and trucks won’t have to “look” at the white traffic light because they’ll be communicating with it wirelessly. In addition, this white light will act as a signal to human drivers and passengers to follow self-driving vehicles at the intersection.
White Light Project Relies on Computing Power of Autonomous Vehicles
“Red lights will continue to mean stop, green lights will continue to mean go. White lights will tell human drivers to simply follow the vehicle in front of them,” explains civil engineer Ali Hajbabaie.
This concept we propose for traffic intersections, which we call the “white phase”, takes advantage of the computing power of autonomous vehicles.”
The system will work as follows: Autonomous vehicles will communicate with each other and with traffic lights at intersections within a certain distance. This will enable them to coordinate traffic flow more efficiently and intelligently. For example, roads with more vehicles will be given priority and recommendations for optimum speeds will be given.
Human drivers in the mix will be instructed to track the vehicle in front of them at a white light: stop if the driverless vehicle stops, continue if it continues. When the number of autonomous vehicles in an intersection drops below a certain threshold, the traffic lights will revert to the classic red, yellow and green option.
Traffic Delays Can be Reduced by 40 to 99 percent
In the simulation models created, it was found that autonomous vehicles improve the traffic flow on their own, and this is even better when the white phase is applied. In addition, it has been observed that the use of white phase has positive effects on reducing fuel consumption.
The simulations showed that the higher the percentage of autonomous vehicles at an intersection, the faster the traffic moves, reducing traffic-related delays by 40 to 99 percent.
“Giving some of the traffic flow control to autonomous vehicles is a relatively new idea, which we call the mobile control approach. This approach can be used to coordinate traffic in any scenario involving autonomous vehicles,” says Hajbabaie.
“We think it’s particularly important to incorporate the white light concept into intersections because it tells human drivers what’s going on so that the driver approaching the intersection knows ahead of time what to do.”
The researchers note that improvements become more effective when the number of autonomous vehicles at an intersection exceeds 30 percent. If 70 percent of the vehicles in traffic are autonomous vehicles, the intersection can operate in fully automatic white phase mode.