Senseable City Lab

While self-driving cars have yet to make it on our roads and highways, they will soon be all around us. It’s just a matter of time. And as you ponder on how this fact will change, not only the way people travel, but they way people live, know that its implications on our very infrastructure will also be staggering.

It’s a future that researchers from MIT’s Senseable City Lab are trying to visualize. Take a look at their view of tomorrow in the (kind of terrifying) video below.

Making Traffic Lights Obsolete

With self-driving technology in the horizon, the researchers argue that roads will no longer need stoplights to guide traffic. Autonomous vehicles are built to be able to communicate with other vehicles, which means they can easily slow down and accommodate incoming traffic without causing a collision.

The concept for these “slot-based systems” is described in a paper published in PLOS ONE.

\As the team behind the work notes, “Since their appearance at the end of the 19th century, traffic lights have been the primary mode of granting access to road intersections. Today, this centuries-old technology is challenged by advances in intelligent transportation, which are opening the way to new solutions built upon slot-based systems similar to those commonly used in aerial traffic: what we call Slot-based Intersections (SIs).”

With this new system in place, and without the stops and bottlenecks that traffic lights are known to cause as vehicles pile up waiting for the green light, it’s likely that traffic delays and congestion will ease.

Of course, this will require cars to have seamless communication as well as a central traffic controller. And it will, theoretically, work only on the premise that the roads are only populated with autonomous cars. A single human driver, and it will ruin everything.

Nevertheless, it demonstrates just how great the changes in lifestyle, urban planning, and infrastructure that self-driving technology will bring.

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