Anyone who travels frequently in San Angelo knows, we're lucky. Traffic jams are few and far between.  About the biggest traffic problem in San Angelo revolves around very annoying stoplights.  It is not an exaggeration to say that on the most congested one mile stretch of Bryant Boulevard, Knickerbocker, Sherwood Way and a few other thoroughfares in our city, that it takes nearly ten minutes to go less than a mile.

Photo by Randy Lisciarelli on Unsplash
Photo by Randy Lisciarelli on Unsplash
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In some cities, it seems that the traffic lights flow.  If one light turns green, then if you travel at the speed limit, the lights systematically turn green one by one as you approach. This is not just convenient for drivers, but it helps traffic flow perfectly and prevents bottlenecks.

SIphotography
SIphotography
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Now, researchers from Aston University are taking the principle behind this technology to new extremes.  They have developed a new Artificial Intelligence traffic light system that keeps traffic rolling and prevents congesting by automatically assessing live camera footage and adapting traffic lights in real time.

Red and green traffic lights against blue sky backgrounds
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Today, most traffic light automation systems rely on magnetic induction loops or wires that sit under the surface of the pavement and detect when cars pass over it, then reacts by switching the light.

This new AI based system does so much more.

It utilizes cutting edge realistic traffic simulators called "Traffic 3D" to teach the traffic control intelligence system how to react to every traffic or weather scenario in real time.  On days when roads are slick, for example, this traffic light system adjusts the length of the yellow lights to give motorists more time to stop.

Photo by Jéan Béller on Unsplash
Photo by Jéan Béller on Unsplash
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Now, all this Artificial Intelligence stuff does scare some people. Visions of "Terminator" traffic robots may dance in some people's heads.  Imagine a traffic robot, who suddenly develops an affinity for watching multi-car pileups. Not sure if that's possible, but a quicker commute and faster flowing traffic would definitely make this system perfect for San Angelo.

Photo by Clark Van Der Beken on Unsplash
Photo by Clark Van Der Beken on Unsplash
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Maybe we should contact those researchers at Aston University and offer our San Angelo traffic lights to be part of their pilot program.  We don't have that many citywide and it would be a great place to test them out.  Just a suggestion to San Angelo City Leaders.

Photo by Matt Hoffman on Unsplash
Photo by Matt Hoffman on Unsplash
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Who am I kidding?  I can't even get them to come out and look at the pothole on my street.  It does give us all a reason to contemplate, while we sit at that endless stoplight in front of Walmart on Bryant Boulevard.

 

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