Invention mods traffic lights with game theory to ease congestion

Sometimes, we get angry being stuck in traffic. We might be fuming about the person playing on their cellphone that rear-ended someone, or we might blame the person poking along in the left lane. And yes, sometimes, we might just blame the oppressive injustice doled out by traffic lights, particularly when we hit every… single… red.

But a researcher from the University of Toronto named Samah El-Tantawy might have a solution to at least the traffic light issues. As part of a pilot program in Toronto and Cairo, El-Tantawy installed a sort of artificial intelligence system in the lights that allows them to communicate with each other through decision-making strategies rooted in game theory to manage the traffic flow, rather than rely on algorithms from a central command center…

In Toronto, the effect of El-Tantawy’s lights on just 60 city intersections reduced traffic by about 40 percent and cut down on travel times by just over a quarter. It’s unclear what the effects were in Cairo.

Still, the chances of having our travel times cut down by up to 25 percent and the environmental implications of slashing traffic delays by 40 percent, make the idea of these autonomous traffic lights something we’d like to see in our own cities. I for one welcome our new traffic light overlords…

More detailed coverage of the trial is found over here.

Why am I not surprised that logic and science haven’t been applied in this manner before?

2 thoughts on “Invention mods traffic lights with game theory to ease congestion

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