'Ants-inspired' virtual lights to beat traffic jams


Emulating the way insects like ants communicate in busy colonies, researchers have developed a new virtual traffic-lights system which they claim can lessen commuting time by 40 to 60 per cent.

Ozan Tonguz, a telecommunications researcher at Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, is looking to nature for an innovative solution to the gridlock.

His team is trying to emulate the way in which ants, termites, and bees communicate right of way in busy colonies and hives, to solve the traffic problems faced by commuters.

An algorithm, which directs traffic at busy junctions, was recently patented by Virtual Traffic Lights, a company owned by Tonguz, the 'New Scientist' reported.

As intersections approach, a dedicated short-range communications is used by the cars to quickly exchange information on their number and their direction of travel.

The largest group of vehicles is given an in-car green light, while vehicles in the other group see a red light and wait for their turn.

After the largest cluster of cars pass through the intersection, the next biggest group is given the green light.

Simulations over the past 3 years showed that the new traffic light system can lessen 40 to 60 per cent of commute time for workers during the rush hour.

The National Highway and Traffic Safety Administration and the private groups have given the project USD 2 million in funding since it began in 2009.

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