a, Science & Technology

Research brief

Traffic Lights

Arguably the very worst part of commuting is hitting one red light after the other, and it’s all the more frustrating when you’re hitting these reds while driving on an otherwise empty street.

A University of Toronto Postdoctorate Fellow, Samah El-Tantawy, recently installed a new system in Toronto traffic lights as part of a Toronto-Cairo pilot program. The aim was to increase traffic efficiency by designing an artificial intelligence program that allows traffic lights to communicate with each other and use decision-making strategies using Game Theory, rather than the current system of a centralized command center using algorithms.

“In lay language, [traffic lights] act as a team of players cooperating to win a game—much like players in a soccer match, where each player [wants] to score, but at the same time, considers the ultimate goal of the entire team which is winning the match,” El-Tantawy said in a University of Toronto press release, according to Yahoo! Canada News.

Essentially, the lights are able to use up-to-date, real-time information to make logical decisions that will keep traffic flowing smoothly. This system was installed on approximately 60 intersections in Toronto and reportedly reduced traffic by around 40 per cent. Commute times were also cut down by approximately 25 per cent, meaning that the widespread implementation of this technology could have huge implications for urban traffic congestion, as well as carbon emission levels.

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