New algorithm can predict red-light runners

Researchers at Massachusetts Institute of Technology have found a way to figure out when you're likely to blow through that red light you're fast approaching in your car.

Researchers at Massachusetts Institute of Technology have found a way to figure out when you're likely to blow through that red light you're fast approaching in your car.

By analyzing a vehicle's speed, deceleration, and proximity to the stoplight, the new algorithm can predict which cars will violate the most basic of traffic laws: red means stop. The MIT research team tested their development using traffic data gathered from a busy intersection in Virginia already rigged with a bevy of sensors and cameras as part of Department of Transportation funded study.

When applying the new algorithm to the traffic data, researchers could detect within a couple of seconds probable violators. Predictions were accurate 85 percent of the time, which is 15 to 20 percent more accurate than previous algorithms.

This type of algorithm could be used in conjunction with vehicle-to-vehicle communications systems to create crash-avoidance safety features. Thanks to increasingly stringent safety requirements from the National Highway Safety and Transportation Association, manufacturers are making cars safer and stronger to better protect occupants in the event of an automobile accident. But there's a lot of progress to be made in preventing accidents from occurring in the first place.

Researchers found a "sweet spot" in which they could identify probable violators with enough notice--about two seconds--to give drivers about to enter an intersection a heads up. The two-second warning to drivers in the form of an electronic alert could prevent some of the 700 fatalities that are a result of red-light runners.

To find a practical application for this new finding in road safety, researchers will need vehicle-to-vehicle communications technology to become more commonplace. Manufacturers such as BMW and Ford are actively investigating ways to use the technology and integrate them into new vehicles. For the 600 million or so cars already on the road, GM is developing an after-market product that can be used for older models, pedestrians, and cyclists. MIT researchers will also explore ways to use their new violation-detection system in air traffic control.

 

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