Rapid Flow Blog

Wall Street Journal Features Rapid Flow in Article on AI Traffic Control

Posted on October 23, 2018

The Wall Street Journal recently ran an article exploring the ways that artificial intelligence can be used to reduce traffic in busy cities and neighborhoods. The article dives into issues of congestion, but also how these new technologies aim to reduce auto emissions and prioritize emergency vehicles and public transit.

In discussing the need for real-time management of traffic congestion, the article highlights Rapid Flow and the Surtrac intelligent traffic control system. More specifically Henry Williams, the author, talks about Surtrac’s deployment in Pittsburgh’s East Liberty neighborhood, which is an area prone to heavy traffic due to local residents, shoppers, and commuters.

Members of our executive team were able to speak with Henry Williams about the smart traffic management technology.

“Traffic patterns changed so much over the course of the day that [the traffic signals] didn’t really work all that well,” said Greg Barlow, one of Rapid Flow’s co-founders and the co-inventor of the Surtrac system.

Traditionally, traffic lights are kept on a fixed schedule based on evaluations by a traffic engineer. And while some can coordinate with the next intersection and/or sense when a car has been waiting a while, most intersections aren’t truly smart in 2018.

Engineer working on AI traffic control system

The Surtrac technology, as noted in the article, allows each intersection to optimize independently, or coordinate with other intersections based on the demands of the actual traffic flow occurring in real-time . For example, if traffic congestion is localized at one intersection and can best be resolved through local optimization, Surtrac is able to recognize, communicate, and carry out that action. Alternatively, if congestion is spilling into other intersections, or a “green tunnel” is required to move large platoons of vehicles through a network, Surtrac can coordinate its activities with other intersections to solve more systemic traffic issues.

“We have communication between intersections,” Greg said. “It lets an intersection plan based on what it can see with its own sensors and what its [neighbors] can see with upstream sensors.”

In addition to reducing waiting times at traffic lights by up to 42%, The Wall Street Journal article also notes Surtrac’s impact on reducing auto emissions due to cars spending less time idling on the road.

Williams’ article also highlighted upcoming features of the Surtrac adaptive traffic control system, including the ability to let drivers share their planned routes with the technology in order to better optimize the flow of traffic.

The WSJ article also makes note of Surtrac’s ability to optimize multi-modal traffic, including transit, pedestrians, scooters, etc, rather than just vehicle traffic.

Access the full Wall Street Journal article here: Artificial Intelligence May Make Traffic Congestion a Thing of the Past
This entry was posted in News.
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