Intersections are a necessary evil when it comes to building roads. You need them to keep cars from crashing into each other, but at any given time a large number of people are just sitting around waiting.
To be fair, engineers use traffic flow analysis and other methods to try cutting down the wait times, but it's often still a one-size-fits all approach.
That's why you can be sitting at a light when there's no traffic going the other way. Or you might be in a huge line of cars, but the light only goes green long enough to let a few through (this is a problem at an intersection just outside my office).
In Europe, they solve this problem with roundabouts or turning circles, but those haven't really caught on in the U.S., at least for major roads. So, is there a better solution?
Researchers at Carnegie Mellon University want to take stoplights out of the intersections and put them in your car. No, not literally, but you would have a virtual stoplight system in your windshield.
As you approach an intersection, electronics in the road would communicate with your car and any other cars in the area moving toward the intersection. It would then calculate how to get everything through as fast as possible. It would also take into account pedestrians and cyclists.
Researchers claim the system could improve traffic flow up to 60%. And the system can be retrofitted into existing cars.
Audi is already testing a similar system in Germany where stoplights communicate with the car to tell the driver how long until the next red light. It then tells the driver what speed they need to hit to catch the light while it's green, so they don't have to stop as much.
What do you think? Is this the next stage in bringing self-driving cars to the road, or just a plain bad idea? Let me know in the comments.