How smart traffic lights may shorten your commute

You’re sitting at a red light. There’s no traffic headed in the other direction. But the light isn’t changing.

Technology coming to the D.C. area may help.

Alexandria, Virginia, will begin installing smart traffic signals that talk to each other about when to change the lights so drivers can get moving. It’s called adaptive traffic signal technology, and it’s being considered in other parts of the DMV too…

Sensors in the ground communicate with the traffic signals to constantly retime the signals based on road conditions. If more cars are coming in one direction, the direction with heavier traffic flow will get more time with a green light.The signals will retime themselves about every three to five minutes, to perform at the optimal level.

The usual way to retime traffic lights is to collect and analyze traffic count data. Using that method, it can take months or even years before drivers see a change.

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