Print 14 comment(s) - last by Souka.. on Aug 28 at 2:08 PM

The study found that humans are better at controlling traffic than current computers

A new study says that humans are much better at controlling traffic in urban areas than current computer systems, leading to the development of new ones based on artificial intelligence.
Researchers from the University of Southampton conducted a study that found humans to be better traffic controllers than existing computer systems. They made this discovery through testing for BBC's "One Show," where the host used a laptop to control a traffic light junction at the InnovITS. Thirty drivers then attempted to reach an agreement on the accuracy of the traffic light. It showed that human controllers beat computers when it came to road congestion. 
As a traffic solution, the researchers have started developing traffic control computers that are capable of learning from experience the way humans do through artificial intelligence. 
"The demonstration carried out at InnovITS Advance indicates that the human brain, carefully employed, can be an extremely effective traffic control computer," said Dr. Simon Box of the University of Southampton Transportation Research Group. "In our research we aim to be able to emulate this approach in a new kind of software that can provide significant benefits in improving the efficiency of traffic flow, hence improving road space utilization, reducing journey times and potentially improving fuel efficiency."
Automakers have even started creating systems that can prevent traffic jams, like Honda, which partnered with the University of Tokyo to make new driving assistants. These systems track the behavior of the vehicle and determines if its pace could cause a traffic jam. However, the University of Southampton's AI system could take this to another level. 


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Why the call them "stop" lights
By bildan on 8/27/2012 9:55:20 PM , Rating: 2
I was astride my motorcycle in the lane next to a nice lady in a convertible at an interminable red light. The cross street had no traffic whatsoever. The lady opens the conversation with, "Why doesn't it turn green?". "There's no one for it to stop on the cross street", I replied.

Presently, two packs of cars approach the light from opposite directions on the cross street. The light obediently turned red in their direction and let us pass. I got a nice smile from the lady as we went our ways.

RE: Why the call them "stop" lights
By nocturne_81 on 8/28/2012 12:29:37 AM , Rating: 3
The best solutions are often the simplest.. I'd imagine these situations could be solved more easily by implementing more turnabouts and switching all traffic lights in low traffic areas to 4-way stops at night.

RE: Why the call them "stop" lights
By etikka on 8/28/2012 5:51:10 AM , Rating: 2
That's what they've been doing in Finland and it works.

The stop lights go off during the night. The time they're off depends on the traffic in the area.

Also turnabouts have become more and more common during the past two decades. They usually make the traffic flow better and the accidents are less severe than in normal crossroads because there are no head on crashes etc.

RE: Why the call them "stop" lights
By drlumen on 8/28/2012 12:51:53 PM , Rating: 2
They do something similar in most towns in the US. For example, where I live, all the secondary cross road signals flash red from 11:00PM to 5:00AM and the main thoroughfares flash yellow. The major intersections still work as normal though.

It doesn't help any during rush hours but it prevents waiting at a light for a long time at night.

RE: Why the call them "stop" lights
By Souka on 8/28/2012 2:08:36 PM , Rating: 3
Problems with "turnabouts" or roundabouts here in the US is you lose control of the traffic flow.

As an example a roundabout with 4 entrance points...say North, East South, West.

Heavy traffic traveling North continues North through roundabout.
Heavy traffic traveling South continues South through roundabout.

The result is East and West approaching traffic have a difficult time entering the traffic pattern.

In Washington State there are several roundabouts during rush-hour that this occurs... resulting in backups of 50-100 cars in the East and West direction.

Anyhow... most city planners do not like roundabouts as you lose control. Yes they can have bypasses added and even traffic lights....

My $.02 working 5 years at a civil engineering office which did roadway design as part of it's services.

By Chernobyl68 on 8/28/2012 12:21:52 PM , Rating: 2
could be the light is pretimed, not in a coordinated system, or does not have adequate advanced detection. Could be detectors are not working.

By Farfignewton on 8/28/2012 12:37:36 PM , Rating: 2
Presently, two packs of cars approach the light from opposite directions on the cross street. The light obediently turned red in their direction and let us pass.

I have seen this enough times to make you wonder if someone was doing it on purpose somehow. On the other hand, if you push a crosswalk button for the direction you to travel, it will usually trip the signal.

Can my neighborhood be a beta tester?
By jjlj on 8/27/2012 7:04:21 PM , Rating: 5
Please install this on the light at the exit to my neighborhood! It's faster for me to take a right, U-turn and go through the light than it is to wait at the light and turn left. Ugh!

RE: Can my neighborhood be a beta tester?
By spamreader1 on 8/28/2012 12:04:20 AM , Rating: 2
lol, the fastest way to make a left is to make 3 rights ;)

By muhahaaha on 8/28/2012 12:48:58 AM , Rating: 2
I prefer to take a slight detour through my local wormhole. And it goes right by the liquor store too, and still gets me home in a jiffy.

By nocturne_81 on 8/27/2012 8:45:51 PM , Rating: 4
How is this news..? So there's a problem which human intelligence can understand better than current computer models, so somebody simply opines that 'artificial intelligence' could be the saving grace -- without any proof, without any real experimentation (outside of the control), and without any evidence that any work has been accomplished outside of coming up with a theory.

I also can't help but think the efforts could be better spent on the larger picture -- improving efficiency, promoting public transportation, and improving safety. After all, we wouldn't be worried about the cost of millions of cars on the morning commute if one in three people would just carpool or ride the bus.

On a different subject, though.. what do we consider artificial intelligence..? If the definition is merely an algorithm that takes a history of statistical info into account before pumping out a solution, that's hardly all that 'intelligent' -- let alone anything new.

Sorry - but way.
By Dr of crap on 8/28/2012 8:17:01 AM , Rating: 2
Simple sensors or cameras could fix the waiting for a light to change problem.

But how about fixing the problem that when 20 plus cars get together on the freeway, you have to slow down??? You might say no that doesn't happen. Yea, watch the next time at rush hour. And IF ANY brake light comes on, you can count on a speed reduction of at LEAST 20 miles per hour. ALso any curve, or hill will have the same effect.

So don't tell me humans are BEST at getting the traffic figured out! Maybe on city streets, where there aren't to many cars to deal with and the speed is slow, just maybe. But at high speed, humans are the worst!

RE: Sorry - but way.
By Rukkian on 8/28/2012 9:17:33 AM , Rating: 2
Not that the article really gave much other than some researchers think they can do something, but the article had nothing to do with freeways, or high speed. It is about intersections (stoplights) vs a person (police officer) controlling traffic at an intersection.

oh please
By Iketh on 8/27/2012 8:39:42 PM , Rating: 2
Tiffany, this would have been a better article if it was written to make fun of Southampton for thinking they've discovered something.

I've always figured it was some cities skimping on their transportation budget. Daytona Beach has the worst lights I've ever experienced while Orlando has the best.

If intelligent controllers really don't exist, then I'm developing for the wrong industry.

"Paying an extra $500 for a computer in this environment -- same piece of hardware -- paying $500 more to get a logo on it? I think that's a more challenging proposition for the average person than it used to be." -- Steve Ballmer

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