CMU researchers say stoplight synchronization works

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Tired of sitting in traffic gridlock, burning gas, polluting the air and wasting time?

Help may be as close as the next traffic signal.

A first-of-its-kind traffic signal control technology already has shown promise in reducing pollution and commuting time during a pilot trial in East Liberty, its developers said today, and it could eventually be deployed city-wide.

CMU video demonstrates success of stoplight synchronization

A first-of-its-kind traffic signal control technology has shown promise in reducing pollution and commuting time during a pilot trial in East Liberty. (9/24/2012)

Developed by Carnegie Mellon University with cooperation from the city and East Liberty Development, and funding support from three Pittsburgh foundations, the synchronized signals reduced vehicle wait time in the high-traffic sections of East Liberty by 40 percent, travel time through the area by 26 percent and vehicle emissions by 21 percent.


The next steps will be to expand the pilot project area on a wider scale in the city and eventually assess the possibilities for deploying the technology throughout the city.

"I'm proud of CMU's team, which developed this first-in-the-world technology, and am equally proud of the partnership approach typical of Pittsburgh that made this pilot possible," said CMU President Jared L. Cohon in a release distributed at a news conference this morning.

Pittsburgh Mayor Luke Ravenstahl said the pilot's success was a breakthrough that could make the city traffic system work more efficiently.

"It makes the city more attractive to employers and residents alike," Mr. Ravenstahl said.

Sponsored by the Traffic21 Initiative at CMU's H. John Heinz III College, which was launched in 2009 with funding from the Henry L. Hillman Foundation, the study of congested urban roadways was tackled by Stephen Smith, director of the Intelligent Coordination and Logistics Laboratory in the university's Robotics Institute.

Mr. Smith and his team of researchers used concepts from the fields of artificial intelligence and traffic theory to develop technology that allows traffic signals to communicate and adapt to actual traffic conditions in real time.

Philanthropist and business leader Henry Hillman praised the technological breakthrough and said it presents an opportunity for Pittsburgh to take an international leadership position in "demonstrating how low-cost, easy-to-implement technological solutions can reduce traffic congestion, vehicle fuel consumption and emissions while also improving safety and air quality."

The pilot project was funded by grants from the Richard King Mellon Foundation and the Heinz Endowments' Breathe Project, a coalition of 112 organizations, businesses and industries, and 1,200 individuals formed to improve air quality in the region.

"We saw the adaptive signalization project as a way to reduce the estimated 17 percent of our local air pollution problem that comes from vehicle emissions," said Robert Vagt, Heinz Endowments president. "What we discovered from this great result is that something done with the intention of improving air quality can also deliver a significant economic benefit."

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Don Hopey: or 412-263-1983. First Published September 24, 2012 4:30 AM


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