Signal-Free Intersections: Future Streets for Self-Driving Cars

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All of our automotive infrastructure is designed around the needs of human drivers, but in a world of driverless cars, a crossroads need not slow anyone down, let alone force someone to stop.

A team of researchers from MIT, Swiss Institute of Technology and the Italian National Research Council developed this Light Traffic concept for maintaining safe distances and speeds, moving vehicles through quickly, efficiently and fairly. Traffic problems are boiled down to a system of sequences, each accommodating different volumes from different directions.

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Vehicles approaching the intersection are slotted into a system that slows them down in advance, anticipating the traffic coming from all sides.

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By avoiding unnecessary stops, vehicle emissions are reduced, fuel is saved, and annoyance alleviated. Road infrastructure would last longer too, while the lack of lights would reduce costs both upfront and ongoing. In time, such systems could even reduce the need for lanes, giving back space for sidewalks, greenery or other uses.