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Florida university to research adaptive traffic control systems

According to the US Department of Transportation (USDOT), outdated traffic signaling equipment accounts for more than 10% of all traffic delays, and also contributes to excessive fuel consumption and air pollution. However, modern adaptive traffic control systems, or ‘smart’ traffic lights, which allow intersection signals to adjust to real-time traffic conditions such as accidents, road construction and adverse weather, can improve travel time by more than 10% on average. And in areas with particularly outdated signal timing, improvements can be 50% or more, according to the agency. Although adaptive signal control technologies have been in use for approximately 20 years in the USA, they have only been deployed on less than 3% of existing traffic signals. The Florida Atlantic University (FAU) has now received two research grants to test and evaluate the effectiveness of ‘smart’ systems.

Researchers in the FAU’s Laboratory for Adaptive Traffic Operations & Management (LATOM) in the College of Engineering and Computer Science have received a US$100,000 grant from the City of Miami Beach to test two adaptive traffic signals that are being considered for one of the busiest corridors in South Beach, Arthur Godfrey Road (41st Street).

LATOM has also received a US$300,000 grant from the Florida Department of Transportation (FDOT) to research the use of high-resolution data from signal controllers and detectors in order to monitor performance of traffic signals. These complex systems require an extensive surveillance and communication infrastructure to enable connection, either among local controllers, or between a central system and the local controllers.

LATOM is a one-of-kind simulation lab that is equipped with software, hardware and institutional capabilities, and is able to provide regional, national and international partners with opportunities to develop new, and use existing, methods and tools to monitor, manage and control transportation infrastructure.

As adaptive systems can be considered to be an expensive investment by some municipalities, they often seek advice from experts and research labs to pre-test their effectiveness in the lab environment before the systems are deployed in live traffic.

“Congested roads have long been a headache for contemporary cities and we need to look at innovative ways to deal with traffic,” said Aleksandar Stevanovic, director of LATOM and associate professor at FAU.

“While better management of traffic signals won’t reduce the number of cars on our streets, we can do a much better job in adjusting signals to work more efficiently. Smart traffic lights are one way to address urban traffic congestion, and if timed properly and continually, they can both reduce traffic delays and improve public safety. In our lab, we are able to work with our partners to model or ‘simulate’ different traffic patterns throughout a day, and on weekends and during various other scenarios, where virtually the same technology that controls traffic in the field is used in simulation to test its effectiveness and reliability.”

June 23, 2015

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