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MIT-bred technology would let cars help each other avoid traffic jams

Stephen Lawson | Sept. 18, 2014
If you get stuck in traffic a lot, your next car may be able to talk to other vehicles and help keep you off jammed roads.

RoadRunner might be an alternative to the congestion-control system in Singapore, one of the world's most advanced, which levies different tolls based on the amount of traffic on the stretch of road that a driver is entering. Singapore's current system uses gantries, or structures built over the roadway, that communicate with transponders in each car. That means the Land Transit Authority, which operates the system, can only regulate congestion where it's built a gantry.

By contrast, RoadRunner can be set up in any area, based on GPS coordinates, and can point drivers to alternative routes to help them avoid the congested area. Gao ran simulations with RoadRunner using data from the Land Transit Authority and estimated that it would increase average car speed by 7.7 percent during peak traffic periods, over what Singapore's current toll-based system achieves. Gao and Peh also tested RoadRunner on 10 cars in Cambridge, Massachusetts, MIT's hometown.

One big step remaining for making RoadRunner a reality is implementation of 802.11p. For their real-world test in Cambridge, Gao and Peh equipped cars with commercial 802.11p radios, which are about the size of a typical dashboard transponder used for tollbooths, according to MIT. The driver's smartphone, equipped with a RoadRunner app, controlled those external radios. But Gao said 802.11p radios are already being built into some cars and he expects them to appear in smartphones, too. That would provide two different hardware platforms for using RoadRunner.

 

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