NEW YORK– The thought crosses the minds of most daily commuters every day: what’s the traffic like? Usually, the answer to that question is “awful.” However, experiments with new computer software coupled with cameras, sensors and timers could alleviate the moderate gridlock and perhaps, prevent car accidents.
The BBC recently reported some areas in the United States are experimenting with new traffic control devices that could save drivers hundreds of hours every year.
“On the surface, gridlock should be a minor frustration,” car accident lawyer Steve Barnes said. “In reality, that frustration can sometimes escalate into road rage for some drivers and others simply stop paying attention to the road.”
In theory, smarter traffic signals would keep the lanes flowing, reduce commute times and hopefully reduce the number of accidents during rush hour.
Just across the Hudson River, the New Jersey Meadowlands Commission has been implementing the Meadowlands Adaptive Signal System for Traffic Reduction (MASSTR) since 2010 and the commission is now beginning to record its results.
The MASSTR uses traffic signal controllers, detection devices, radio transmitters, and computer servers to program traffic signals to constantly adjust to real-time traffic situations and it’s the largest of its kind to be implemented in America.
According to the commission, the MASSTR is expected to reduce delays in the Meadowlands by 1.2 million hours every year and save drivers more than 1.2 million gallons of gasoline. The system, composed of 74 signals in the region, has the ability to recognize a car accident and reroute traffic to relieve congestion, if necessary.
“Too many times, drivers will drive past a crash and look it instead of keeping their eyes on the road,” Barnes said. “If traffic can be diverted away from an accident, that can not only save time but it could save lives as well.”
Many of these ‘smart traffic systems’ are still being tested for their true effectiveness. In the Meadowlands, engineers say there’s a considerable improvement in traffic since the system’s completion last year. However, other areas researching similar systems question the effectiveness of smart signals versus the cost to implement them.