Stuck In Traffic

Traffic 21, a multidisciplinary research initiative at Carnegie Mellon University, applies some of the latest research and technological advances coming out of the university to real transportation issues in the region.

On the streets of East Liberty and Bloomfield, Traffic 21’s adaptive traffic signals change color depending on current traffic volume. The project began in 2012 with nine intersections in East Liberty and has expanded to 49 intersections, reaching into Bloomfield. “One of the most efficient ways of reducing congestion is having optimal timing of your traffic signals,” said Caldwell. “We’ve had reductions of wait time of up to 40 percent, so these signals have been very significant there.”

Read more from Pittsburgh Today

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Alleviating Congestion On Pittsburgh’s North Shore

It’s a well-known Pittsburgh piece of advice: don’t go to the North Shore on game days if you don’t have to.  The riverfront neighborhood is routinely congested by drivers and pedestrians during events.  The Stadium Authority of the City of Pittsburgh is looking to alleviate some of that congestion by studying the use of Surtrac adaptive traffic signals.  Rapid Flow Technologies CTO Greg Barlow stops by Essential Pittsburgh to explain.

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CMU, Pittsburgh’s Surtrac program aims to ease traffic congestion

More adaptive traffic signals are coming to East End neighborhoods this year as CMU and the city of Pittsburgh develop the Scalable Urban Traffic Control program, or Surtrac. Aiming to ease congestion, the signals change their patterns based on traffic instead of preprogrammed cycles.

CMU’s studies on the East Liberty intersections show vehicles spend 40 percent less time idling and reduce emissions by 21 percent.

Read more at the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review

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P4 conference talks aimed at transforming Pittsburgh during ‘wonderful time’

Pittsburgh and its downtown have come a long way since that night some 13 years ago, thanks in part to a building boom launched by the bank itself, including construction of Three PNC Plaza and the new Tower at PNC Plaza, which is to open this fall.

Now the goal is to take it to the next level, and that is why Mr. Demchak and about 250 delegates from as far away as Stockholm gathered at the Energy Innovation Center in the Hill District on Thursday for the P4 international conference.

But Mr. Demchak noted that more must be done, such as using technology to improve traffic flow and to create safer, less congested streets. Mr. Demchak will chair the Envision Downtown panel put together to do just that.

Read more from the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.

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Finally, an end to gridlock thanks to Surtrac’s real-time traffic control

Robots are taking over intersections in the East End. Not anthropomorphic robocops directing traffic but Surtrac’s artificial intelligence-based system that has been quietly deployed over select intersections in East Liberty.

Founded by a team of roboticists and a spin-off of Carnegie Mellon University’s Traffic21 research initiative, Surtrac’s system could spell the end of gridlock.

Surtrac stands for Scalable Urban Traffic Control and the company’s technology performs traffic signal control that responds in real-time not only over single intersections but throughout the system where it is deployed. “When we say real-time it’s true real-time. A lot of people talk about real-time and they mean about 15 minutes. We are talking real-time to the second. You are driving down the road and we are optimizing for you,” explains Gregory Barlow, one of the company’s co-founders.

Read more at NEXTpittsburgh.

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25 Great Things About SCS

What’s so great about computer science at Carnegie Mellon?

We’re glad you asked! Here are 25 great ideas from CMU computer scientists to think about as we celebrate the birthday of the School of Computer Science.

  1. Artificial intelligence, 1955-56
  1. Smart, adaptable traffic signals, 2012

Smart traffic lights developed at CMU’s Robotics Institute are saving time and energy, and cutting down on the amount of air pollution created by idling cars. First rolled out in Pittsburgh’s East Liberty neighborhood, the new signals are being studied around the country.

See the whole list of 25 Great Things About SCS.


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The Traffic Lights of Tomorrow Will Actively Manage Congestion

Of course, regardless of the benefits, most cities and towns can’t rely on a top-down, statewide signal interface, because it’s expensive to build and labor-intensive to operate. That’s where Stephen Smith comes in. A professor at the Robotics Institute at Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh, he researches artificial intelligence, and is currently working with the city of Pittsburgh to install the first city-wide network of “smart” traffic signals.

Instead of using humans to monitor and react to traffic flow, the new signals use radar sensors and cameras to detect traffic, and sophisticated algorithms to instantly adjust signals based on real-time conditions. “Each intersection builds a plan that optimizes local traffic flow,” says Smith. “Once it does that, it communicates its outflows to its downstream neighbors.”

Smith’s team installed nine smart signals back in 2012 and saw instant results. Travel times along the corridor with the new signals were reduced by 25 percent, idle time fell by 40 percent, and vehicle emissions dropped by 20 percent. The system is also scalable for cash-strapped cities, says Smith, because you can install the signals one intersection at a time as funding becomes available. By the end of this year, Pittsburgh will have 49 smart signals.

Read more at CityLab.

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New Report Details How Technology Can Ease Traffic, Reduce Oil Consumption and Harmful Greenhouse Gas Emissions

WASHINGTON – As Americans prepare to travel in record numbers this Labor Day holiday weekend, the technology and transportation industries, along with representatives from AAA and academia, have released a new report detailing how technology can reduce U.S. oil consumption, greenhouse gas emissions, and time wasted waiting in traffic. The report, “Accelerating Sustainability: Demonstrating the Benefits of Transportation Technology,” highlights that tools currently available such as connected car and smart cities technologies could be more readily and easily implemented nationwide to improve the way we move people and goods.

The report was unveiled at an event today at the Information Technology Industry Council (ITI) headquarters by representatives from ITI, the Intelligent Transportation Society of America (ITS America), the Information Technology and Innovation Foundation (ITIF), the Center for Clean Energy Innovation (CCEI), and the Digital Energy and Sustainability Solutions Campaign (DESCC).

“Technology is a transformative force for good—and when it is used in connected cars and smart cities—it can help us reduce the amount of oil our country consumes, ease traffic congestion and the pain at the pump, and make our society more sustainable,” said ITI President and CEO Dean Garfield. “Today’s discussion and the report we are releasing show it can be done. What is missing is for our lawmakers to act and bring our 20th Century policies into the 21st Century to make full use of the proven technologies available today.”

“When applied and connected on a national scale, advanced vehicle, infrastructure and aftermarket technologies can reduce U.S. oil consumption by hundreds of millions of barrels per year, in some cases tripling the efficiency benefits of currently available technologies,” according to ITS America President and CEO Scott Belcher. “For example, wireless applications like vehicle platooning could produce fuel savings of more than 10 million barrels per year. As Congress works to pass a long-term transportation bill next year, we hope this study will provide a roadmap to help navigate the latest transportation technologies and their real-world benefits as policymakers work to promote a safer, smarter, more efficient and sustainable transportation future.”

Event participants discussed the report’s findings and four real world case studies where information and communications technology (ICT) and intelligent transportation systems (ITS) are already producing measurable results across the country, including:

Pittsburgh, PA, tested an adaptive signal control system in one neighborhood and reduced travel time by 25 percent.

Read the press release from ITS America and the full report.

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City expands use of high-tech traffic signals

The city and Carnegie Mellon University are expanding a network of high-tech traffic signals that monitor flow and instantly react, changing their timing to move vehicles through intersections more efficiently.

When the work is done, the system will extend from Penn and Braddock avenues in Point Breeze through Larimer, East Liberty, Friendship, Bloomfield, Shadyside and Oakland, with 49 intersections equipped with the smarter signals.

The signals use cameras or radar to monitor traffic and are able to communicate with one another to minimize wait time for drivers. Deployment of 18 such signals in East Liberty is credited with reducing wait times by 42 percent and travel time by 24 percent, officials said.

“Imagine if traffic signals had the ability to see the traffic that was there. Then imagine the traffic signals had the ability to talk to each other, second by second,” Mayor Bill Peduto said at a news conference. “It’s not something from George Jetson. It’s something that’s happening right here in Pittsburgh today.”

CMU will work next on ways to improve pedestrian and public transit flow. Mr. Peduto said he expects further expansion of the signal network as well.

“We’re in a part of the city that’s growing very quickly,” he said at the conference, held at Morrow Park in Bloomfield.

“We don’t have the capacity to tear down houses and make wider roads” to speed traffic, Mr. Peduto said.

“We do have the ability to think about it and do it smarter.”

Read more at the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.

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Getting Around in the 24-Hour City – Pittsburgh Magazine

Pittsburgh spent $8 million in the 1990s on an automated, high-tech downtown traffic-signal control system. Several years ago, it spent millions more for an update. That system never has been fully activated.

Peduto and Fitzgerald say they will seek help from Carnegie Mellon University researchers to extend cutting-edge technology for “smart” traffic signals that already have improved traffic flow at nine intersections in East Liberty. Baum Boulevard and Centre Avenue are next, then Penn Avenue to the east, providing an “intelligent transportation corridor” between Wilkinsburg and downtown via Bigelow Boulevard.

More from Pittsburgh Magazine.

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