Sabhijiit Sandhu, Naman Jain, & Aditya Gaurav, all B-Tech Computer Science students and Professor N Ch. S N Iyengar, Senior Professor, School of Computer Science Engineering, Vellore Institute of Technology, have come up with a solution that they believe is capable of not only mitigating the problems of traffic mismanagement but also improve the traffic conditions. The solution involves having a dynamic method of timing the traffic light signals.
In India, traditionally, the traffic signal installations have two components, a timer and the traffic light heads. There are two modes in which these traffic lights work. One is by making use of preset timers while the second manually controlled by the police. In normal operation, the lights have preset timers after which they turn green. The timer runs each color light for a fixed period time, not taking into consideration the density of traffic. The major flaw with such a system is that during periods of light traffic, commuters are made to wait for unnecessarily longer periods while during peak traffic hours it can lead to large jams as a result of the signal running green for inadequate time intervals.
In the paper titled – “Agent Based Intelligent Traffic Management System for Smart Cities” – the authors have designed a traffic management system wherein the time for which a traffic light runs green is calculated on the basis of the number of vehicles for the corresponding lane. The proposed system makes use of a few concepts of computer vision incorporated within intelligent agents to perform this. The traffic signal will have dedicated cameras for each lane attached to it, this entire setup together combines to form the agent. Right before it is the turn of the signal for a particular lane to run green, the camera for that lane will take an image of it. This image will be used to compute the number of vehicles waiting at the particular moment. The number of vehicles obtained from this is then used to calculate the amount of time (determined on the basis of an algorithm, this algorithm will be determined taking into consideration the pattern of traffic flow for the specific junction) for which the light should run green.
This system has several key aspects. Compared to traditional traffic light setups, here, the system has the capability of taking decisions on the basis of temporal analysis and developments. The real-time analysis allows for the dynamic control of traffic that makes it easier to identify and reduce congestion along roads. Moreover, the self-adjustability aspect allows for the appropriate response to non-recurrent and unexpected events. The advantages however, are not just limited to congestion control. There is a safety aspect to it as well. The cameras can be used for monitoring traffic violations and identification of offending vehicles for challaning (stop line crossing, red light jumping etc.). The real-time footage being generated by cameras can also be used as evidence in traffic junction accidents as well as by security agencies. Lastly, by establishing communication between different signals, the unhindered movement of emergency vehicles like ambulances and firetrucks can be facilitated by ensuring they get stoppage free paths.
The traffic light systems in the US and the UK for example, make use of induction loops to dynamically control the traffic. That is also a viable method; however the problem is maintenance. Any form of road work or repair results in the connection of the induction detectors to controller getting cut. Hence there is an additional cost of reinstalling the connections that is incurred quite frequently. Moreover, all this system does is regulate traffic and reduce congestion. This system on the other hand, has the ability to provide added security and safety features, which might give it an edge.
With the advent of the era of smart cities, it is imperative that smart traffic management becomes an integral part of urban development. There are both financial and environmental considerations to progress and urbanization that need to be addressed and the installation of intelligent traffic signals is a step forward in the right direction.