AI technology may be the solution to long traffic light waits

Americans spend about 17.25 million hours waiting for poorly time traffic signals every day. Every day!

That’s according to a recent study by Inrix, a transportation data company that tracked the movements of thousands of connected vehicles every five seconds as they traveled through some 210,000 intersection across the United States.

An interactive map created by Inrix lets you dig into the data to see traffic signal performance grades by state, region, county, city and even at the block level.

Not surprisingly, the slowest intersections in Middle Tennessee are in downtown Nashville, specifically on Commerce and Church streets, as well as Broadway.

The intersections of Broadway at 4th, 5th and 12th avenues are the slowest with delays in the 55- to 80-second range, according to the map.

However, technology developed by a company called No Traffic, based in Palo Alto, Calif./Tel Aviv, Israel, may be a solution to all that time wasted sitting at traffic lights.

Using artificial intelligence, No Traffic has launched a pilot project in leading cities across the nation — no word on whether Nashville is one of them — where it has installed “smart” traffic lights at 170 intersections to determine if traffic can move more smoothly, quickly and efficiently.

No Traffic’s technology shares data between all intersections and then traffic lights respond to dynamic road conditions in real time. That includes vehicles, along with bicyclists and pedestrians.

The concept is a bit difficult to imagine, but No Traffic has created an animation video that may make it a bit clearer.

Before No Traffic took the pilot project national, it conducted a one-week product validation study at one intersection in Maricopa County, Ariz., the fastest-growing county in the country, with a population of 4.5 million.

Besides reduced vehicle delays, the project yielded other benefits, according to Design News:

  • The economic benefit, estimated through annual, countywide projections, was more than $50 million.
  • Levels of CO2 emissions were reduced by 2.56 metric tons during that single week.
  • Annual countywide projections estimate the levels of CO2 emissions reduced by the No Traffic system at 22,607 metric tons, which is equivalent to taking 4,915 vehicles off the roads.

It’s definitely time for a solution, particularly as the Middle Tennessee region continues its growth explosion and traffic gets heavier every day.

According to the No Traffic website, more than 90 million new vehicles are introduced to roads each year; the U.S. experiences a 12 percent annual increase in traffic congestion; and 40 percent of car accidents occur at intersections.

Yet, No Traffic says, 99 percent of signalized intersections are still running on fixed timing plans.