AutosFacing the future: Could a fourth color traffic light revolutionize autonomous vehicle integration?

Facing the future: Could a fourth color traffic light revolutionize autonomous vehicle integration?

Is three colors of traffic lights at intersections too few?
Is three colors of traffic lights at intersections too few?
Images source: © Freepik | Manu Reyes

9:08 AM EST, December 16, 2023

We're accustomed to traffic lights comprising three colors: red, yellow, and green. Occasionally, we encounter additions like arrows or counters, but the fundamental structure remains untouched. However, might we see a transformation in this regard in the future? We can't definitively say, but recent research yields intriguing insights.

The proliferation of autonomous vehicles plays a significant part in this. Scientists and engineers are starting to explore solutions to ensure that conventional cars and autonomous vehicles can coexist safely and efficiently on the same streets.

An intriguing solution has been proposed by scientists at North Carolina State University. Through computer simulations, they've demonstrated that implementing a new, fourth light could be highly advantageous. Ali Hajbabaie, a member of the research team, explained this to the "Newseria" service.

Hajbabaie stressed that the additional light doesn't necessarily have to be white. While this color was used for the experiments, any color distinct from red, yellow and green can be considered.

This system could provide tangible benefits to all participants in urban traffic. The research indicates that by introducing a four-color signal and assuming autonomous cars constitute a third of all vehicles on the road, traffic delays could decrease by 11 percent. Even with a mere 10 percent share of autonomous vehicles, changes would still be noticeable, with a roughly 3 percent improvement.

Experts agree that this solution could initially be trialed in ports or transshipment points, where autonomous vehicles are already common. It would represent the first step in determining the practicality of a fourth light in real-world conditions, which are inherently less predictable than computer simulations.

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