Is This Lights Out For Traffic Lights?

Self-driving cars will change many things on the road, traffic lights just being one of them.

The century-old traffic light could be become extinct if autonomous vehicles become the most common form of automotive transport.

Traffic experts believe that a slot system — closer to how air traffic is routed — might work better for ground transportation than traditional lights once self-driving cars and trucks become ubiquitous.

That’s the finding of an international study from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, the Swiss Institute of Technology and the Italian National Research Council.

Traffic intersections are complicated because different flows of traffic compete for the same space. Switching to a slot-based model could be simpler and more efficient, the study said.

“A slot-based system moves the focus from the traffic flow level to the vehicle level,” said Carlo Ratti, director of the MIT Senseable City Lab. “Ultimately, it’s a much more efficient system, because vehicles will get to an intersection exactly when there is a slot available to them.”

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