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The Future of Traffic Lights

by | Sep 16, 2014 | Government Entities

iStock_000000130948Medium_200_150Oh, how the times are changing. In the beginning, policemen directed traffic at intersections. Years later came traffic lights.

As the number of cars on the road went up, cities needed a way to keep cars from crashing into each other. With the introduction of green, yellow, and red, the automated traffic light did the trick.

Pedestrian-walk sensors were eventually added, but by and large, the basics stayed the same: signals were for safety’s sake. Today’s traffic engineers are giving the traffic signals new responsibilities – programming them to not only react to the flow of traffic, but also to predict driver behavior. The signals of the not-so-distant future may help cities cut congestion without adding lanes or building new roads.

Utah is now the home of one of the most advanced state-wide traffic signal systems in the United States. Though most signal plans are revised every three to five years, the Utah Department of Transportation (UDOT) can adjust nearly any signal in the state within just 30 seconds.

Spurred by the 2002 Winter Olympics, Utah began connecting traffic signals across the state using a fiber optic network installed in partnership with utility companies. Today, UDOT has data from over a thousand closed-circuit cameras and can remotely control over 80 percent of the traffic lights in the state.

Signal timing offers a huge benefit-to-cost ratio and decreases the amount of lost productivity in the U.S. economy, as a result of sitting in traffic.

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